Most 'domestic' machines will have only one combined record/replay head-this means that you do not know what the recording is like until you play the tape back.Better machines will have separate record and replay heads-allowing for the recording to be listened to whilst being made -off the tape so to speak..Domestic recorders usually take a reel size of up to 7" .The tape speeds that are used in domestic machines are usually 3,75ips and in the better machine 7.5ips.(The faster the speed the higher the fidelity!)
.There are various other factors to consider-for example-how many tracks?Professional tape recorders using quarter inch tape will only have 2 tracks -this means that there is a left and a right track going one way on the tape and it is called 2 track stereo.Domestic machines will often be half track mono-which is one track going one way (mono),then turn the tape over and record on the other side the same.Then there is four track mono (called quarter track)-four seperate mono tracks -two on one side of the tape-two on the other. The other variations are : 4 track stereo (quarter track) -which is 2 channels of stereo on one side of the tape and two on the other side.
For the serious enthusiast nothing will beat something like a Studer which is in the professional league of tape recorders,and which most studios have used-and some still do.These and other professional machines will have three motors-no drive belts,and have tape speeds of usually 7.5 ips & 15ips,and will only be 2 track machines.Professional Studios in the analogue days- would use machines running at 15ips with two tracks,and only standard play tape!-Long play tape is very much a domestic thing!-and is to be avoided if possible due to a number of reasons.If you would like any 'basic' advice from my 41 years of Analogue tape handling -let me know.They didn't call call me 'the Analogue man' for nothing!. Ps.Checkout some websites -there a lot of enthusiastic analogue people out there!.
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