Magnetic Tape Sound Recording - Commercialization - Standardized Products

Standardized Products

Working with Mullin, Ampex rapidly developed two-track stereo and then three-track recorders.

The typical professional audio tape recorder of the early 1950s used ¼" wide tape on 10½" reels, with a capacity of 2400 feet (730 metres). Typical speeds were initially 15 in/s (38.1 cm/s) yielding 30 minutes' recording time on a 2400 ft (730 m) reel. 30 in/s (76.2 cm/s) was used for the highest quality work. Domestic and portable recorders used seven, five or even three inch reels (or spools). Early professional machines used single sided spools but double sided spools soon became popular (particularly for domestic use). Tape spools were usually made from transparent plastic but metal spools were also used.

Standard tape speeds varied by factors of two — 15 and 30 in/s were used for professional audio recording; 7½ in/s (19 cm/s) for home audiophile prerecorded tapes; 7½ and 3¾ in/s (19 and 9.5 cm/s) for audiophile and consumer recordings (typically on 7 in or 18 cm reels). 1⅞ in/s (4.76 cm/s) and occasionally even 15/16 in/s (2.38 cm/s) were used for voice, dictation, and applications where very long recording times were needed, such as logging police and fire department calls.

The 8-Track tape standard, promoted by Bill Lear in the early 1960s, popularized consumer audio playback in automobiles. Eventually, this standard was replaced by the smaller and more reliable Compact Cassette.

Philips' development of the Compact Cassette in 1963 and Sony's development of the Walkman in 1979 led to widespread consumer use of magnetic audio tape. In 1990, the Compact Cassette was the dominant format in mass-market recorded music. The development of Dolby noise reduction technology in the 1960s brought audiophile quality recording to the Compact Cassette also contributing to its popularity.

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