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The Tape Project nears release of it's first four titles
March is a very busy month for The Tape Project. The running masters for our first four albums are being made, the world's finest realtime duplicating setup is being assembled, and the custom reels and packaging are in production. At the same time a program of tape machine refurbishment and modification is being developed at Bottlehead Corp. as it gets ready to offer modification services and complete machines based on the highly regarded Technics RS1500 series of tape recorders. While we burn the midnight oil getting ready to serve up some of the best sounding audio fare ever made, here's some news to keep you sated-

Extended Response Heads improve playback performance
Greg Orton of Flux Magnetics has come up with a specially packaged version of his extended response playback head that fits perfectly in place of the stock two track playback head in your Technics RS1500. Upon receipt of your head block Greg installs the extended response head in the original shield can and wires it to the original head selector switch, preserving your RS1500s selectable quarter track/half track playback ability. For dedicated playback only machines Greg will also install long wearing ferrite "dummy" heads in place of the stock erase and record heads. For more info contact Flux Magnetics


RMGI tape chosen for initial Tape Project offerings
After extensive testing and auditions we have chosen RMGI's SM 468 formulation as the tape for the first Tape Project album releases. Grammy Award winning mastering engineer and The Tape Project Managing Director Paul Stubblebine has found RMGI SM 468 to be manufactured to a high level of consistency, sounding as good or better than the original, highly regarded AGFA PEM 468 formulation. It's a most appropriate tape for the high level of quality we are attempting to achieve with Tape Project master dubs. Click this link to download a specification file in PDF format from the RMGI website


The Tape Project swag - now available

We think our Tape Project logo is too cool, and Tape Project Managing Director Michael Romanowski just couldn't wait to get us swagged out. So here's a link to cool shirts, mugs, bags, buttons plastered with the Tape Project logo, available at CafePress.com. A hot tip - the Tape Project messenger bag pictured would be perfect for carrying two or three Tape Project albums to your next audio soiree.
Why IEC equalization?
Are we nuts? Or is there a good reason?
I am asked this question almost daily. Typically the question is accompanied by the comment that the consumer grade tape machines out there are are almost all set up with NAB playback EQ rather than IEC playback EQ. I'll attempt to give a not too technical explanation of our choice to use IEC playback EQ on the Tape Project tapes. My reference, and a brilliant resource for those interested in more detailed discussion, is Jay McKnight's collection of technical papers on his Magnetic Reference Labs website, home of the high quality MRL calibration tapes.

The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) standard for tape playback equalization was designed by Frank Lennert in 1948 for use with early Ampex tape machines and the then industry standard 3M Scotch 111 formula tape. Scotch 111 is well regarded for it's ability to hang onto a signal over many years. But by modern standards it's a "high noise" formula. And tape heads of the era were limited in high frequency response. The NAB equalization curve was designed to compensate for these factors by boosting the high frequencies above 3150 Hz during playback. The 3150Hz transition frequency creates a "boost" in the high frequencies that is 3dB greater than the inherent loss of high frequencies that occur in the modern day recording process. Modern tape formulations (and tape heads) have improved so much from the early days in terms of frequency response and noise floor that the high frequency flux now needs to be cut during recording to get flat reponse during playback with NAB EQ. So a shelf needed to be created in the recording EQ curve to compensate, and this keeps the recording engineer from being able to take full advantage of modern low noise tape formulations. From a modern tape machine designer's perspective this is getting messy! Now you're boosting the highs way more than you should and noise goes up. So we need a new EQ curve that let's us avoid cutting the highs during recording.

Yup, you guessed it, the 4500Hz transition frequency of the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) playback EQ nicely matches the losses of modern tape formulations, and the recording EQ doesn't need to make unecessary compensation for overly boosted playback EQ. Ironically the IEC curve isn't even a new EQ curve - it has been used in Europe for mastering almost as long as the NAB standard has been used for commercial playback. It's a simpler curve to implement and gets the high frequency noise levels down to where noise reduction methods like Dolby and DBX become unecessary. Sonically it's a winner, and that's means it fits right into the Tape Project's goal of delivering the best possible music in the best possible format.

Studio machines from the likes of Studer and Ampex come with selectable IEC EQ, and some "prosumer" tape machines like the Otari MX-5050BII and the Technics RS 1520 do as well (along with sporting the necessary half track playback head and 15 ips capability for playing Tape Project Tapes). Some other machines can be modified to IEC EQ by a competent technician, and the ultimate is to have a machine modified to connect the heads directly to custom playback electronics with switchable EQ setting like those offered by ATR Services, E.A.R., Manley Labs, and soon by Bottlehead. Bottlehead also offers DIYers a kit that can be adapted to tape playback, the Seduction.

Dan "Doc B." Schmalle, Managing Director, The Tape Project and President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
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The Tape Project, LLC
P.O. Box 2786
Poulsbo, WA 98370

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