SH Spotlight How do I fix a damaged analog master tape without digital step? Jethro Tull, Nat King Cole, etc.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Jul 21, 2022.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    There are a few ways, but what I do is this:

    Did this for JETHRO TULL/Aqualung. The tape came to DCC for the Gold CD and 180 vinyl series (after a wait of 7 long years) from Ian Anderson personally. He called me in the middle of the night at home and told me he was (at long last) sending the tapes and they would be here soon. Two days later, in a dumpy old carton, they arrived, British mail! Yikes..

    Discovered soon that the song "Aqualung" had a giant tape stretch in it, lasting at least 4 seconds. Sigh. So, what to do?

    Got the old US CD (made from the USA EQ'd cutting dupe) and also the actual dupe reels from Warner Bros. Records and copied over the bad section onto some old Agfa tape in Dolby A stretched (to match the masters), spliced it in to the original, mastered the song and then put back in the tape stretch for the next guy to worry about.

    Why didn't I leave it in? Well, I patched a damaged master one time like that and the owners didn't like it at all so, learning that, never helped 'em out that way again, unless they asked (nicely).

    Patching is the way to save old and damaged tapes. If most of the tape can still be used, it is worth patching rather than just using a safety or EQ'd dupe tape. Of course, if you're just issuing a digital version and not cutting a record from analog, you can fix by editing in the system. But to actually cut a proper record from the analog tape, it needs to be fixed.

    I can still hear the patch when I play the DCC Aqualung but I doubt anyone else could (it's in the section where his voice sounds like it's over the telephone, give a listen). We had to EQ the safety patch to match the original reel, and that included doing it Dolby A (which I hate).

    Was complicated but after waiting seven friggin' years for the tapes, nothing would stop us using them to cut our 180 gram vinyl release without a digital in-between step..
  2. Gary

    Gary Nauga Gort! Staff

    Wow... if I had to attempt any of these mastering tricks myself, I'd be reduced to a gibbering mess of blue jeans and T-shirt in a matter of seconds!
    joshm2286, tug_of_war, Paul K and 9 others like this.
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    It's not fun cutting into a 50 year old master tape to remove a piece but it is either that or use a safety for the entire song or album. I'd rather make the cut..
  4. dadregga

    dadregga Forum Resident

    Every album we have that has been well-captured to digital so we don't have to worry about losing it when the master tapes eventually turn to dust from age, wear, excessive handling, bad storage, or backlot fires is a blessing.
    Dayfold, Dyland, joshm2286 and 3 others like this.
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    This was just a case of operator error, I'm sure these masters will last many more years.
    jazon, tug_of_war, bajaed and 4 others like this.
  6. folkfreak

    folkfreak The cold blooded penguin

    Stange how this story evolves.
    The last time I heard it it was a Cd bought in the next store to dub the passage...
    Geordiepete, tootull and Slim Pickins like this.
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Didn't want to involve Warner Bros. in those days. They had no rights to the dupe tapes anymore.
  8. DolphinsIntheJacuzzi

    DolphinsIntheJacuzzi Forum Resident

    Houston, TX
    Agreed. Was over the moon when I heard the most recent Floyd digital remasters. The recent vinyl pressings of Meddle and Ummagumma, in particular, sound better than any other versions I've ever owned. Such a blessing that these versions will be around as long as we are.
    GowG likes this.
  9. tootull

    tootull Looking through a glass onion

    Yes. Note, Warner fixed this for the Adapted edition.
  10. ggergm

    ggergm Snoring like a song, deep and rhythmic

    How much damage will you accept, Steve, before you start patching? There are many jazz records I own where newer remasters have a short drop-out in one channel. Would you accept that? If it's only half a second, is that OK? How about a full second? Where does authenticity and making an even slightly audible patch diverge?
  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    If it's just a drop out in one channel I might leave it or, if it's for digital, I might fix it in editing. But if it's for cutting a record, depends.

    On a track on Nat "King" Cole "AFTER MIDNIGHT the first second of a song was missing due to years of broken splices being repaired.

    Drove me bat**** crazy but in order to cut a record, we needed the full intro so we (after getting permission) took the Capitol "phono safety" and used a bit of the opening to do an actual patch onto the original master tape.

    Of course, you have to wait for a beat or measure to edit on or it won't work so it took three seconds of the safety and then the original after that. Three seconds is a LONG LONG time when you're doing a patch like this..

    Can't hear it and it saved the song in first generation form. Proud of that one.
  12. abzach

    abzach Forum Resident

    The end result is very good!
    longdist01 likes this.
  13. Captain Groovy

    Captain Groovy Senior Member

    Freedonia, USA
    I wouldn't know how to staple two sheets of paper together...

    But I love reading about this stuff, thanks Steve!
  14. Keith V

    Keith V Forum Resident

    Secaucus, NJ
    Thanks for the story
  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Eh, no one really gives a **** but a few might find it interesting.
    dwilpower, THE801, Ryan Lux and 40 others like this.
  16. Well, in 5 billion years it won't matter, but for now it's pretty cool.
  17. threeheadedmonkey

    threeheadedmonkey Forum Resident

    The Netherlands
    I guess it's like restoring damaged paintings. Some purists may not like it, but I guess it's still better than throwing it out altogether and only showing copies.
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    The ironic thing is that since no one really cares how the hot dog is made (by the low number of members looking at this thread) it's no surprise that most companies just dump to digital now, even for analog vinyl cuttings. But, the horror when it's pointed out to the masses! Strikes me as funny.

    Whenever we cut something in the old days we would invite a group of people to watch, so there could be NO doubt that analog stays analog.
  19. Dansk

    Dansk rational romantic mystic cynical idealist

    Ontario, Canada
    There are plenty of us who do. I very nearly started school to become an engineer in 2006 because I love technological audio geekery like this, but it was the post-Napster years and the music business was a dumpster fire and it seemed like a bad idea at the time.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2022
  20. tootull

    tootull Looking through a glass onion

    Listen carefully - tape stretch about 1.24 into Aqualung. I started at this forum searching for info on Aqualung to helping with the Adapted version. Strange trip. :winkgrin:
    joshm2286, FritzL, Kim Olesen and 4 others like this.
  21. dasacco

    dasacco Senior Member

    Love this story.

    I recall a video somewhere of you giving a talk on it, perhaps even playing a section of it? Does that exist or am I dreaming this?
  22. Jasonbraswell

    Jasonbraswell Vinylphile

    Very cool story of craftsmanship.
    Curious when this occurred and what pressings?
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    It exists. I used to play the damaged Aqualung during my lectures. Freaked people out.
  24. Unranged

    Unranged Enjoyer of Music

    I love hearing about this stuff, thanks so much for posting!

    One question: Do you know how (or if) they fixed this for the flat transfer in the Adapted Edition?
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Has to be fixed. Cannot use the tape any other way. No idea how.
    wrat, 2.1Channels and longdist01 like this.

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