Reel to reel tape

Magnetic recording tape was developed in Germany in the 1930's. Open reel was in general use till late 80's. Paper was first used as a tape base material. It was fragile and broke easily. Later on, PVC has been the standard material. The magnetic layer is usually iron oxide.

There are several reel sizes from three inches (7,5 cm) to ten inches (25 cm). The reels are plastic or aluminium. There are also several different center holes and hubs. The photo shows an Ampex 5" reel with a Cine hub. Larger reels also had a larger NAB hub.

The most common tape in home use was the Long Play (LP) tape. Studio tape was thicker. Thick tape doesn't stretch or get wrinkled  as easily as a thin tape. The studio tape has less print-trough between the tape layers. A thick active layer also allows a large dynamic range.

The usual tape speeds in domestic recorders were 4,76 cm/s and 9,53 cm/s (3,75 ips). Some had 19,05 cm/s (7,5 ips) and even 38,1 cm/s (15 ips). A very slow 2,38 cm/s was good enough for dictation. Some studio tape recorders had as fast as 76,2 cm/s (30 ips) speed. High speed consumed a lot of tape and the duration was short, but the reproduction of high frequencies is the better the higher the speed.

The reel-to-reel tape has a very good sound quality. With noise reduction it is hi-fi class. Handling reels and threading the tape isn't as easy as using Compact Cassettes.