First, do no harm! Important notice to administrators of sound recordings archives:
Surviving original master tapes must never be subjected to possible damage by playback on tape machines incorporating forced-guidance or fixed-pin tape lifters. Neither should irreplaceable tapes be placed on a machine that could over-write or erase them. For these reasons studio tape recorders should never be used for the playback of important or high-value master tapes.
What's a reproducer?
A reproducer is an analog audio magnetic tape machine that is optimized for playback only. It is similar to the common tape recorder (recorder-reproducer) except that it does not record.
Leading professional tape machine manufacturers of the analog era knew that a dedicated reproducer is much preferred over a tape recorder if you're seeking highest quality tape playback. Yet for reasons of economy, their customers overwhelmingly purchased only recorder-reproducers, making dedicated reproducers exceedingly rare.
Why choose an ATAE reproducer?
The choice of the reproducer used for playback of master tapes is crucial because in many cases the surviving tapes are highly fragile and also because signal losses occurring during playback are not recoverable. Further, the reproducer must retrieve all of what is on the master tape without adding any new distortions of any kind. A large distortion component of analog magnetic recording is time base corruption (often termed flutter) which occurs in both recording and playback. It is caused by imperfections of the tape transport, the mechanism that moves the tape steadily past the sound heads. Optimum playback of an analog master tape requires a reproducer having exceptionally low time base error. Higher-frequency scrape flutter is also audible and should be vanishingly low on a top quality reproducer.
Reproducers incorporating precision guidance, servo-controlled constant tension and servo-capstans can have lower time base errors. ATAE pioneered single-head read-only (SHRO) reproducers that have lower time base error than all other tape transports, making our machines the preferred tools for those working with legacy analog master recordings.