There is obviously no better medium that a first or second copy of live or studio recorded material. Proof, if you needed one, is that there a new proliferation of re-releases of master tapes onto Blu-Ray or DVD-A or as 96/24 0r even better, 192/24 digital files, or new pressings of 180g vinyls. The reason is that it is a very good way to get back to the source of the original recording with minimum alterations, and in some cases, with the proper digital processing, an increase of quality on the original, as noise is reduced and various artefacts removed.
For the real aficionado, with some deep pockets preferably, the ultimate treat is to acquire a copy on these master on tape and to play them back on refurbished/upgraded original equipment from the era.
So, as our festive season gift, I thought I would assemble for you a collection of photos of tape recorders gleaned from the web or from my personal collection of photos taken on shows. Both the CES and the RMAF we had a good collection of stands using tapes and tape recorders as their primary source! A sign of the times? I let you be the judge of this...
On a technical side, it is to be noted that most machines were limited to 15kHz bandwidth until the 70s, and we have to credit the Japanese manufacturers to push the boundaries with semi pro machines claiming a bandwidth exceeding 25kHz. Analog tape is also quite forgiving for accepting peak levels without generating too much distortion, then improving dynamic range in the process if managed smarly. Furthermore, the disc cutter had a certain tolerance in pushing the levels into the red just enough to gain a few dBs of dynamic range, without compromising the spacing between adjacent grooves. Kit Lambert, the producer of The Who, was famous for instructing Brian Carroll to "keep the needles in the red" on the VU-meters!