|78rpm disc - test pressing: Mortonsound Recording Studio, Newcastle-upon Tyne, 1959 (Private collection).
With the exception of a small number of 78rpm disc recordings and some cassette recordings, most of the audio material included in the archive was presented to the FARNE project as analogue reel-to-reel tapes. Many recordings had been made using domestic or portable equipment using very slow speeds. A small number of tapes had been recorded at 1 7/8 i.p.s.; the majority of tapes had been recorded at 3 3/4 i.p.s.; with only a small number using the higher quality running speeds of 7 1/2 i.p.s. or 15 i.p.s. This presented us with some major problems. We found it difficult to locate a machine that would play back at slower speeds. As a compromise, all slower speed recordings were played back at 7 1/2 i.p.s. and slowed down using the Cool Edit Pro time stretch algorithm. Results were surprisingly good, and resulted in only minor audible distortion on some of the older 1 7/8 i.p.s. tapes.
|Time stretch dialogue - Cool Edit Pro.
The majority of tapes had been well looked after and played back ok. Most of the problems with hum and distortion were related to defects in the original recordings rather than deterioration due to age. One of the biggest problems with older open reel recordings is tape shedding. As the recording is played small particles of oxide fall from the tape leaving a deposit on all of the parts of the deck that contact the tape. This will cause a loud squeal to be heard from the tape deck and through the speakers. Along with the squeal the recording will lose all of its high frequencies and end up sounding dull or unintelligible. Eventually the tape will stop playing and will not fast forward or reverse. It was necessary to clean the playback heads constantly, often several times in the course of one tape. Similarly the heads were frequently degaussed to discharge any build up of magnetism.