This short video makes the point that reel-to-reel tape has finally become a viable playback format if you have the cash to play.
The refurbished machines are costly and the tapes @15 IPS are pricey at more than $400 each. But now that the majors are opening the vaults (they have their digital copies that they think are “archival” so why not license for physical copies?), those with the money can own one off the masters (in the case of Analogue Productions tapes) or third generation (The Tape Project).
Surely other labels will follow. The first signs of this happening were seen at last spring’s Hi-End Show in Munich when Horch House announced it had licensed tapes from DGG and Sony/BMG for duplication and sale. It also announced a new reel-to-reel REVOX tape deck that rumors suggested was going to be launched at RMAF 2016. I saw no evidence of that and if a private invitation was extended to journalists to witness the launch, I wasn’t among the invitees.
Analogue Productions announced a first series of twelve major titles. This is a major step forward after years of sales of questionably sourced tapes.
At RMAF 2016 Gus Skinas was playing back on an AMPEX ATR deck a 1/2″ tape compilation of some of the upcoming Analogue Productions reissues and through the new Sonoma headphones, he’s also part of (as is former Sony DSD project leader David Kawakami), the sounds was impressively smooth, detailed and super-clean.
The blank tape being used is a relatively new formulation. How long it will last is an open question enthusiasts need to ask themselves before diving in (heads or tails first!).