greatbear analogue and digital media > audio tape transfer > multitrack tape > 2 inch 24 track reel to reel

2 inch 24 track reel to reel

Close up of Otari MTR90 MkIII machine used for 2" 24 track reel to reel transfer.

2″ 24 track multitrack reel to reel transfer

We are able to support the transfer of 15 inches per second (ips) or 30 ips speed 24 track 2” reel to reel audio recording tape using our Otari MTR90 Mk III multi-track tape recorder.

We deliver the individual tracks / stems as preservation standard 24bit 96KHz BWAV audio files and can digitise up to 192kHZ sample rate using ProTools HDX converters.

You can then open and revisit the creative process through remixing your old recordings in modern Digital Audio Workstations (DAW’s) such as Ardour, Cubase, Logic or Pro-Tools, etc.

24 track 2″ reel problems

24 track 2” reels very commonly suffer from binder hydrolysis because Ampex was the predominant manufacturer of this tape, even though non-Ampex brands tend to become sticky too. They therefore need to be treated by gentle baking in our customised incubator prior to transfer.

2” inch tapes are heavy with a large surface area and therefore there is greater risk of friction as it moves through the tape transport. Due to the massive strength of the motors on large format multi-track machines, which moves tape at great speeds, 2” tape needs to be wound in an even, controlled manner.

Problems can arise with the back coating which was often added to professional quality magnetic tape to help provide a more uniform tape pack wind, as it helps reduce tape friction and distortion when the tape moves through the playback mechanism. Problems with tape pack deformation due to age, poor winding or other stresses are exacerbated in 2” context because the size of the tape and the speed of the transfer can result in severe damage to the tape and motor winders.

Another significant problem common to the transfer of all magnetic tape is machine obsolescence. 2” large format multi-track tape machines were used almost exclusively in a professional context which means they are rarer than ubiquitous domestic tapes machines and often heavily used. Head wear issues and a lack of spare parts is also a pressing long-term concern. On the plus side, as they were machines used in the professional recording industry they were built to be serviced and maintained. Later model Otari machines, the model we use to transfer your tape, remain robust, and with regular servicing continue to function well.

24 track 2″ reel history

The history of large format professional multi-track analogue recording and late 20th century popular music go hand in hand. Key albums, such as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, pushed the boundaries of four track multi-track recording, and placed studio experimentation at the heart of musical creativity.

Until the development of Ampex’s prototype 16-track recorder in 1967, which used 2” tape, multi-track tape capabilities were limited by what could fit onto a 1” tape. 16-track recording studios boomed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, followed by the introduction of 24 track studios. Plans to develop 3” tape, which would have potentially extended multi-track capabilities further, were devised but never implemented – if they had been they would have been monstrous tapes and machines, given how heavy and big 2” tapes are!

Large format multi-track recording persisted in the recording industry until the 1990s, when they were gradually phased out by digital tape machines and file based digital recording technology. People still use analogue tape today, of course, but it is gradually getting more and more expensive, given the cost of tape and the limited number of studios with working multi-track analogue machines.


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