STORIES ABOUT TAPES…

Agfa 468: The famed predecessor of SM 468,

by Doug FEARN.

As many of you might already know, RecordingTheMasters’ tape formulations are based on several legendary BASF AGFA formulas that have a decades-long track record of good performance. We are proud to continue the legacy of these exceptional tapes by manufacturing them brand-new in the present day and age. Recording engineers that use our tapes will have the best of both worlds: time-tested formulas & new, fresh stock.

Our SM 468 tape is a high bias studio and archive tape that can maintain a high level of uniformity even up to the highest frequencies. It has excellent winding even at high speeds and allow for flangeless operation. Its proven long term stability allows archive ability.

We invite you to read this testimony by Doug Fearn, a personal account where he reminisces on his experience hearing the AGFA 468 tape for the first time. Today, RTM’s SM 468 tape is based on the same formula. After becoming an evangelist for the quality of the tape even in comparison to other top performers at the time; Fearn switched to Agfa 468 for all of his recording needs.

Around 1980, the regional rep for Agfa magnetic tape, had a demonstration at a Philadelphia recording studio where a mix was made to three different reels of tape from the top tape manufacturers: 3M, Ampex, and Agfa. The two-track tape machine was carefully re-aligned for each tape formulation and the mix was identical on each. The segments were edited together so all three could be compared rapidly. There were about ten of us in attendance, from most of the major Philadelphia recording studios.

The question was posed to us: identify the tape you are currently using. We listened to all three segments. No one said a word. Finally, I said, “I don’t know which one is which, but the second one sounded significantly better to me.” The Agfa people were delighted. I had chosen the Agfa 468 segment.

The Agfa tape sounded remarkably more transparent and exciting to me. By comparison, the other tapes sounded as if someone had thrown a cloth over the speakers. I was so

mewhat surprised that I was the only one who noticed this major difference; it seemed so obvious to me. I suspect some of the other engineers were accustomed to saturating the tape, and that compressed sound was what they wanted. I never wanted to depend on the tape to achieve the sound I wanted. My goal was to capture the sound in the studio in the best way possible and then add effects later, if needed.

At the end of the demonstration, we were each given a 10-inch reel of quarter-inch Agfa 468. The next day, I repeated the experiment with the tape we were using at the time (it could have been 3M or Ampex – we changed depending on who was having problems with their tape at the time). I was again amazed at the difference in clarity and detail.

The Agfa people told me that I could run their tape without flanges on the reels. I was hesitant to do this, because I had seen what happens when I tried that with other tapes. But in this experiment, I used only the bottom flange, and the tape tracked and packed perfectly, every time, fast-forward and rewind, no matter what I did. Impressive. This was with a Studer A80 2-track machine, but it seemed to work well with my old Scully machines, too.

I brought in a bunch of people to listen. Some were engineers that worked for me, a few were musicians, and some were simply ordinary people with a love of music but no technical background.

Remarkably, everyone in the control room chose the Agfa tape as sounding better.

We made the switch to Agfa 468 for all our recording, on quarter-, half-, and two-inch tape. I never regretted that change, and to this day, those recordings with 468 stand out as having a clarity and beauty that I never achieved with any other tape.

It was a sad day indeed when Agfa stopped making magnetic tape. I stockpiled as much of it as I could and used it exclusively until it ran out.

Doug Fearn.

A SHORT HISTORY OF TAPES

2015

MULANN S.A. located in France, acquires PYRAL, the world leading manufacturer of magnetic tape products formerly BASF/EMTEC plant equipment. After BASF, EMTEC, RMGI and PYRAL,  MULANN owns the original formulas of analog recording tapes which have been used in world class music studios to record major albums.  These magnetic formulas deliver a very high sensitivity and dynamic sound quality. They also offer the capabilities to store contents for several decades, far beyond what drive and optical media offer today. MULANN Industries a subsidiary of MULANN SA is carrying the torch to continue and reinforce the production of the highest standards for audio, and invest in the audio professional sector

1990s

The SM468 (Agfa), SM900 – SM911 (BASF) established as the world class studio professional tapes, used by major studios worldwide, competing with Ampex.

1970s

Ampex responded in 1967 to the demand introducing the revolutionary MM-1000, which recorded eight tracks on one-inch tape. Scully also introduced a 12-track one-inch design that year, but it was quickly overshadowed by a 16-track version of the MM-1000, using two-inch tape. MCI followed in 1968 with 24 tracks on two-inch tape, and the two-inch 24-track became the most common format in professional recording studios throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s.

1950s

Tape recorders based on the magnetophon were manufactured around the world. The format evolved from two tracks to three and four. Most commercially available machines were limited to four tracks until 1966, when Abbey Road recording engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Townshend began experimenting with multiple machines during the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

1948

Les Paul developped multi-track recording when he was working with Bing Crosby who funded the start up of Ampex.

1936

The first commercial recording on magnetic tape was for Mr. Beecham at the Feierabendhaus in Ludwigshafen (Germany). Then the trend was followed by the London Philharmonic at the Munich Symphony Hall. To the best of our knowledge this tape still exist at BASF and was played as late as 1998.

1935

AEG developed the Magnetophone, and improvements in the chemical engineering of polymers allowed its partner BASF to ship the first magnetic tape in 1935– a foil of cellulose acetate coated with a lacquer of iron oxide bound with additional cellulose acetate.

1929

Fritz Pfleumer patented magnetic recording tape using oxide bonded to a strip of paper or film.

1898

Valdemar Poulsen (Denmark)  filed for his first patent for magnetic recording and created the telegraphing.

1888

Oberlin Smith (USA) was the first to conceptualize magnetic recording. He is remembered by electrical engineers as the inventor of magnetic recording, the technology used today for audio and video recording and for computer disc drives