Move over vinyl, reel-to-reel tape is on the comeback

The latest trend for audiophiles is the ultimate in hi-fi.

Read to Me

Everything old is new again, no more so than in the world of music. With vinyl records now being sold in bins at your local Barnes & Noble, it was only a matter of time before audiophiles turned to a more obscure, more collectible format. Enter the reel-to-reel.

There's a trendy diner a block up from our office, operated by one of Chicago's most successful restauranteurs. When you walk in the place, the first thing you spot behind the hostess stand is a vintage reel-to-reel tape player, spinning away. Of course, two decades ago, the king of boomer nostalgia, Quentin Taratino, placed a Teac tape machine prominantly in Pulp Fiction. Uma Thurman seductively presses play on a Neil Diamond cover and does a little shimmy. Yet the revival had never fully taken off — yet. 

An interesting new article on The Verge details the slow but steady revival of reel-to-reel tape. It's a great read that gets into the reasons for the resurgence. The short of it is this: The sound quality is perfect, better than your vinyl records, better than anything digital technology can muster up. The reason for this is that there's basically no loss from what is recorded in the studio and what hits your ears. Dig into the article for the tech aspects of this.

There are small labels working to reissue legendary recordings, largely in audiophile genres like jazz and classical. The Tape Project sells masterpieces like Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins. You may note the price of said album: $450. That's the other big takeaway from The Verge's piece — these things are expensive and with reason. It takes a lot of time and overhead to license and manufacture them. The blank tape itself is expensive. But for those with the means, it's auditory nirvana. 

The commercial sale of prerecorded reel-to-reel albums peaked in the mid-1960s. The players all had very sci-fi sounding names like the Teac A4010s, the Sony TC-155, the Pioneer RT-707, the Technics RS-1500. Many of you, or your parents, might have boxes of reel-to-reel stashed away somewhere, or the players. We're here to say, Save them! A trendy restaurant could be knocking on your door soon.

 
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