Why do people like reel to reel players?

do They sound all that much better than the other stuff?

they look very cool and remind me of language class when I was younger which was the only place I saw them used. It’s like a record player mounted on the wall where you can watch something spin.

It seems a bit impractical to get the tapes and then to mount them all the time. Cassette players seem a lot better. Cassettes used to be a bit easier to get. Not sure they’re even available anymore. I remember they were double sided just flip them over.


Reel to reel decks sound way better than cassette decks. Once you get the hand of it, mounting them is fast. I have a Pioneer RT-707 in my garage system and use it all time. With auto reverse I get an hour and a half of music. 

Garage System


They sound great. I also have a Pioneer RT-707, and even with just good quality needledrop tapes (7.5 IPS quarter track Maxell UD 35-90, good for two 1970’s era albums per reel), there’s a warmth and organic flow that vinyl alone can’t quite match. The top end is rolled off, and of course the noise floor is much higher - but that stuff in the middle...is magic. Playing these tapes is the only time I’ve consistently liked the Tannoy supertweeters, but it still sounds amazing without ’em too. I find the supertweeters way too "hot" for vinyl playback with MC cartridges (even loaded down).

I’ve heard the $500 a pop modern audiophile reel tapes, backed by lots of expensive kit (high end J-Corder Technics deck, Doshi Audio tube head amp), and yes they’re truly State of the Art (no HF roll-off, lower noise floor). However, that route is a no-go for me due to high cost coupled to poor availability of material. I just play my old needle drop tapes as an occasional treat :)

The "warmth of vinyl" reputation really belongs to tape. I have had (and still have) lots of high end analog gear, which I still love too - just saying, I’m not comparing this tape to a Fluance. The best Koetsus get very close to this midrange magic, but good tape still has more of it. 

Decades ago, I was lucky to have the opportunity to get a few first generation open reel copies of some recording studio tapes. They blow away the LP versions , especially so in the bass quality.  That said, copying LPs to open reel doesn't improve anything though it was one way to get a copy of a friend's LP without buying a copy. But, then you had to buy 7" reels of tape. The commercial mass-produced open reels one used to be able to buy were typically transferred at high speed which compromised the quality. So, for me, I liked having an open reel for those situations where it allowed me to record live music, or, the few times I had access to studio masters. For routine playback of commercial music, one is far better off in terms of both convenience and sound quality using LPs, CDs, or CD/Hi-Rez quality streaming. (And these days, almost all new recordings are done digitally even when you buy the LP.)


I have the same question. I asked what is the source of music on that thread mentioned by @mgattmuch (?)… and really didn’t feel like I got a satisfying response. I think… there are few. I can see if you are recording live music. But for the vast majority of us…. Some really old stuff… and not much of it… I think.

R2R tapes sound fantastic but the machines are expensive there are not many pre-recoreded tapes out there and they are very expensive also. Like $500 a pop for software. No thanks but I love hearing them at audio shows.



I wonder if master tapes exist for lots of the older stuff, that is before 1990 or whenever Digital replaced it, where possibly this stuff can be transferred off the tapes in a better way that would improve what we now listen to.

It would seem if we’re able to be more impressed with an actual reel tape, there must be way to transfer this experience to another medium. It sounds like all the mass produced albums and I guess CDs may have been limited in the quality department which is really really really sad. But what did they know back then when they didnt care as much about the quality as we do now.

I saw a YouTube video that just came out where someone had a master tape from Sergeant peppers Recording that was used to make copies for lots of other tapes that went off to other countries to be reproduced. How cool would that be to listen to in such a pure form.



I always wanted a RTR deck. Preferably with 10 inch reels and huge level meters. The only real use I can see for a RTR deck is to record digital music sources into analog. Kind of like an analog buffer. Of course anything other than 1/2 track recording at 15 ips would degrade the quality too much, for me.


In the 80’s, I recorded thirty 10.5” reels of Maxell 35-180 and Ampex Grand Master tapes. At the time I had a Rodex professional mixer, two Technics SL-1600MK2 turntables, and two Technics CD players. Everything I recorded was dbx encoded. dbx eliminated all tape hiss and expanded the dynamic range. The sound then and now is wonderful.  When done right, there’s nothing like a good tape recording- IMHO. 

I’ve high end 2 channel analog gear that includes a refurbished pro Studer. RTR is expensive, laborious, and of limited selection. But the SQ is so good that I’d do it again. The best dynamic range and detail that I’ve heard is RTR. My analogy is that quality RTR is like watching football from the box seats — same game but an improved and pricey experience.

I got into this format about six years ago and find it quite satisfying of a listen. I only play factory pre-recorded tapes no home taping, and have amassed a collection of 150+ factory releases (mainly classic rock) from the 60’s and 70’s. The interaction with the player and medium to me adds to the appeal in a way similar to vinyl. Sound quality with factory tapes is also very high and the time it takes to string a tape is no more than it takes to clean and mount an LP. It’s hard to explain further until you have heard a well set up deck playing songs you are familiar with as it can be quite mesmerizing. 

Only used it for copying or making own recordings. Didn't know until last week (one similar discussion here) that they ever made PRE RECORDED reels!!!

Quality is MUCH better than cassette since the tape machine lays a much longer/faster 'track' onto the (reading/writing) heads. 

IIRC cassette is something like 4.75 cm/sec? Vs even slowmow 9.5, standard 18 (and likely even higher speeds for pro machines). 

Studio machines with super wide tapes opened the world for multitracking (not sure if it was a good thing?).

my friend in high school had an Akai. He recorded borrowed LP from friends, and we turn asked him to make copies for our cassette players. My Dual recored player was mono (so were all cassette players, and my 'basic' Philips 9.5 cm/sec flat open real. 

Aside from nostalgia, I don't know why anyone would use tapes (and vinyl players for that matter) anymore. 

But they are sure a beautiful add on to an audio system; I WILL get one if I find one for no money and put next to some 'woodies' and my record player (and the genuine Walkman II I still have). 


Aside from the ability to record, a quality reel to reel recording is the closest thing to the master tape.

I bought my 1st R2R 50 years ago and have owned several ever since.  I have 60 reels of tape, much of it containing recordings that are not available in any other format. I have a refurbished Revox B77 (Reel to Reel Tech).  The sound quality is close enough to my fully loaded LP 12 and my DCS Bartok, that I enjoy listening.  It's all about the music anyway.  And those reels turning :)

BTW, if you're interested, Reel to Reel tech is the real deal when it comes to refurbished vintage decks, and Curt charges very reasonable prices. 

Let’s face it. Back in "the day" having a cool R2R at home was just about as good as it gets. It represented a perfect storm of the convergence of multiple sensory perceptions that, literally, pegged the needle on the "Wow" meter.

We were all ’ga ga" over our turntables. Watching the tonearm predictably descend while we rushed back to our favorite listening position and became seated at the precise moment the music started was mind-blowing, even without elevated enhancement "accessories". Then, something magical appeared. The technology to record our favorite tracks, albums (even borrowed ones) and have them play in the exact order we wanted, without close supervision in OUR listening room was glorious. Cassette often gets credit for the production of "mix tapes", but it actually started with R2R. (Just a little more difficult to take them with you). The sound quality was indistinguishable (well, close enough) to the vinyl "original" and prerecorded tapes were available for purchase.

R2R represented the ultimate in the analog experience with an abundance of kinetic energy. Reels turning. Big meters jumping. And, oh, when we pulled those levers, pushed the buttons, threaded the tapes, WE were in charge of everything connected to the experience. WE got to be the dude (and dudess) in control of the "master" tape, honorary music producers in our own right.

It was empowering. Duplicating that experience today on ANY level is a tough act to follow.

They look really cool and I love all 8 or mine. I don't really listen to them to be honest but they look good sitting on the rack.

The first time I heard one, I knew it was something special.  More space between the notes etc. Yet expensive and impractical.  And very small selection of titles. So I passed on it.

I have a TEAC X-1000BL deck that I've had since new. I have a modest collection of prerecorded tapes (rock) and I have dubbed several box sets and albums of classical music to 10" tapes. This machine is selling for more than I paid for it (not adjusted for inflation) so it's interesting to see this format come back.

Even though I don't listen to it very often I love the look of it and I can't bear to sell it. Regarding the SQ of the prerecorded tapes, the 7.5 ips tapes sound much better than the 3.75 ips tapes. However, there is noticable hiss and the quality of the sound is so-so compared to a CD. In my experience a 7.5 ips prerecorded tape is about as good as a quality vinyl pressing of the same title. I have a high end digital rig and to my ears neither vinyl or tape can beat a CD.

My deck has DBX noise reduction and it can use high bias tapes like Maxell XLII. I have a Burwen Transient Noise Eliminator (removes the ticks and pops) that I used when recording the vinyl albums and the result is amazing. The taped album is virtually a perfect copy of the record without the ticks and pops.

Using a R2R is somewhat like playing vinyl in that there is a ritual to getting it set up and you get the satisfaction of seeing a finely built machine in motion. I have heard several 15 ips machines at audio shows and I would love to have one but I can't justify the expense. But once in a while it's fun to put on a Led Zeppelin tape or listen to Beethoven's 9 symphonies without having to flip all those records over.

The top end is rolled off, and of course the noise floor is much higher

@mulveling That Pioneer is pretty nice- and has bandwidth to 28KHz. It shouldn't sound rolled off! If it does, you might want to look at the heads and see if they are worn. If not too badly worn, they can be lapped, restoring both bandwidth and noise floor.

If the heads have not been degaussed the machine can sound noisy and rolled off as well- at the cost of slowly erasing the high end of your tapes! So degauss the heads if you've not already done so.

If it still sounds rolled off, your tapes aren't up to snuff or the machine might need the electronics refurbished (new filter caps and the like).

Tape is the source of many LPs so LPs shouldn't sound like they have any more bandwidth (although the LP media does- typically to 40KHz).

Consumer R2R with 7.5 ips speed is inferior to a cassette playback. The real sound comes from 15ips tapes, but these are not sold for ordinary consumer.

But what about all those older original Masters that exist? Isn't there a better way to transfer that good quality to newer age media to make things sound better.

But what about all those older original Masters that exist? Isn't there a better way to transfer that good quality to newer age media to make things sound better.

I have few 15IPS releases on 1/2" tape. Wider tracks, higher speed is where the best of analogue sound even better than with LPs, but how many of those I can potentially get? I have Otari MX5050 RTR machine + kit to convert it to 1/4" that I'm about to sell...

RTR isn't for me due to the lack of possible volume of music I'd like to listen to instead of sound testing.

Hello all R2R aspirants! It is a long shot, but - try snooping in second hand stores, thrift shops and places selling used stuff associated with charities. I've found three 
Sony machines and one TEAC A-1500 W in the last three years. One was the fanciest three speed machine Sony even made it has mechanical problems I can't solve. Two were 7 inch reel "consumer grade" units with the very clever and simple mechanical systems that made them famous. (So good, Panasonic bought them and sold them under their nameplate.) Often, the motor capacitor is bad and that's why the owners got rid of them. A $5 easy fix. Take the playback head and connect it to a fexible EQ phono preamp and bingo! you've got a small reel player. Happy snooping!

Isn't there a better way to transfer that good quality to newer age media to make things sound better.

@emergingsoul LPs have wider bandwidth both top and bottom, as well as lower noise and lower distortion. So that could be a media...

Usually the LP mastering, which is very expensive, is done to save as much time as possible so compression and other processing is used. That's the main reason tape can sound better if carefully dubbed from a master or 2nd generation.

Nostalgia, as other have mentioned. But finding a good deck and maintaining it today can be frustrating. Then, finding any new recordings in the format is problematic. 

But yeah, they were probably the pinnacle of analog sound reproduction for those who can't afford (or don't want) a ~$8000 vinyl playback system. 

For sound quality, I'd *almost* put my Sony 3-head cassette deck with Dolby S and a metal TDK MA-XG tape up against most reel-to-reel running 7.25 IPS. 

For those with r-2-r, enjoy them, but I can't see anyone just wanting to "get into it" here and now in 2023.  You'd likely get more bang for your bucks by elevating your music streaming system and/or DAC, room treatment, or speakers. 

Then you do have the issue (just like all the studios and record labels) that magnetic media will deteriorate over time, indeed, each time they are played, just a bit. 

Ah, but man, watching those large spools of tape going round and round is addictive I'm sure.  My brother-in-law had a very nice r-2-r set up in the 1970s but it was stolen.  It was mesmerizing and yeah, sounded great in its day. 

Many here have been spoiled by convenience. Streaming, digital, etc. Better sound is always and should be the objective. 

I was 16 growing up in ‘71 when my girlfriend’s Stepdad Phil had a R2R and a TT. Phil was a mailman who there was rarely a day when he didn’t come home from his early shift and play his R2R. I can still hear the long running tracks of Issac Hayes in my ears. 

Two years later I was in the Navy stationed in Oahu when my ship did a WestPac cruise to the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand. But it wasn’t until we went to Japan was I exposed to R2R’s at dirt cheap prices compared to stateside. Did I purchase one on my $320 per month salary? Of course not, because I was too busy chasing tail at 18. But later on I wish I had. Anyway, thx for all your memories regarding R2R, for many of us have them. You do you. 

A good R2R recording is the best analog sound you'll ever hear. But there are more reasons to have a reel recorder. One, they're fun to watch. Two, they're fun to play with. Three, the produce the best analog sound you'll ever hear (Yes, I'm repeating myself.)

I once, for a brief time, worked in a recording studio and was able to work with a number of 1970's decks: Ampex 440's; Scully 280's; Studers; JCI's etc. My favorite for tape handling was the Scully.

Reel to Reel Rules if you have a quality deck and the funds for killer tapes. How the hell do you post pics on here?!

A while back I had the opportunity to purchase a reel-to-reel deck from the late 70’s.  I had reel-to-reel during the 70’s and enjoyed it, especially making custom assortment of music, but the thing died long ago.  Even sentimentality wasn’t enough to prompt me to buy this deck, once I realized how expensive the tape is now, both pre-recorded and blank.  CD’s and hard drives suit me just fine. 

I had an R2R machine in my studio but one thing that would have really bothered me for playback in a hi fi system is the noise tape makes banging off the reels as it  spools from one to the other. And you do need 15ips for proper quality. Lastly, the playback electronics in a lot of pro audio R2Rs were of fairly average quality, so no surprise that there is an audiophile industry in replacing them. All that is aside from the cost of tapes and the question of how many of those available are generaltionally close to the original mastertape.

I can see the attraction of it all, but in opportunity cost terms for SQ v spend, I personally couldn't justify it.

I have a box of RtR tapes (Couple hundred on various high-quality Maxell, BASF and other reels) my brother made from vinyl in the early-mid 1970’s. From LP’s I couldn’t afford now in mint condition. But that’s what the tapes sound like now, 50 years on. Mint. The machine I use is a Revox B77 4-track I rebuilt, added upgrades to (digital counter, new input and reproduction boards from Belgium), calibrated it, it’s historic, and brings good memories for me. Fun. What a hobby should be.



I have a box of RtR tapes (Couple hundred on various high-quality Maxell, BASF and other reels) my brother made from vinyl in the early-mid 1970’s. From LP’s I couldn’t afford now in mint condition. But that’s what the tapes sound like now, 50 years on. Mint. The machine I use is a Revox B77 4-track I rebuilt, added upgrades to (digital counter, new input and reproduction boards from Belgium), calibrated it, it’s historic, and brings good memories for me. Fun. What a hobby should be.

That’s what seems to be completely lost on this thread! You don’t have to go for state-of-the-art gear with $500 tapes 15 IPS half track. A good maintained vintage deck, with quality needledrop recordings (yes that’s vinyl recorded to tape) on good tape (Maxell is very good), at least 7.5 IPS 1/4" quarter track - it’s FUN and it sounds like analog should. It’s a different sound from a high quality vinyl setup, but not inferior from an enjoyment perspective.

I had an R2R machine in my studio but one thing that would have really bothered me for playback in a hi fi system is the noise tape makes banging off the reels as it  spools from one to the other.

If tape is banging against the reels, that's really bad for the tape, and the machine's reel holders need to be adjusted (easy adjustment on the RT707 at least). 

My Mom bought me a Realistic RtR back in the late 60s it was so cool and sound so much better .I was hooked i now have 3 RTR .I mean back then everything was recorded on RTR in the Recording Studios. Master Tapes ruled analog....

Back in the late 70's i had two R2R decks:  A Sony TC-880-2 and an Akai GX-265D--i used both to record vinyl to tape on first play to keep the vinyl pristine until the tape degraded (and rthen ecord it again) but mainly to create long-playing party mixes--i used the Akai auto-reverse for that and could play up to 3 hours at 7.5ips-i even had a few tapes recorded at 3 3/4 that could play 6 hours!  So it was a way to play a lot of music without the hassle of changing records and lasted longer than cassettes.  The SQ of the Sony at 15ips was spectacular and i couldn't tell the difference between vinyl and the R2R recordings at that speed.  BTW somebody said cassette was superior to 7.5ips R2R--don't know where that notion came from--perhaps some garbage pre-recorded R2Rs (which i've never owned) but no way can cassette compete--i have a Nakamichi CR4 cassette deck which is a very good deck but it can't compete with my 7.5ips R2R even using metal tape.  Sadly my Sony machine (and many vinyl records) was destroyed in a flood but i still have the Akai and occasionally listen to my tapes b/c i no longer have those particular vinyl recordings but ultimately it's just in my system now because it looks cool--it's the first thing everyone comments on when they see my system--but i've moved on to streaming those lost records --and when i'm really picky i still play the surviving vinyl but don't record albums any more given streaming music sources that can play endlessly...so i guess that answers more the question of why we liked R2R back when vs today--if i didn't already own an R2R i wouldn't buy one...

 I own two RT-909s and two RT-707s.  Never owned any other RtR decks.

I bought my first 707 around 1980.  IIRC, this was prior to - or near to - the invention of cassettes, so if you wanted to record, tape was the option.

Why do I keep them all these years?  I bought all of my current decks before consumer ADCs were affordable and widely available.  So again, if you wanted to record, tape was it.

And once you had the decks in those days it made sense to pick up some pre-recorded tapes.  Theoretically less wear and tear vs. repeated plays of an LP, and the pioneers are fine sounding.

Anyway, that's my story about RtR.

Nowadays I record on a Sony or Korg to high res pcm or DSD...

I would sell the tape decks but the chances of shipping them without damage is basically nill.

I like reel to reel because of the expense and inconvenience of the format.

"I like reel to reel because of the expense and inconvenience of the format."

Vinyl too ..

I like it because of its exclusivity, no one else has one.

Even in the 1970’s when I bought my first one, it was even a very exclusive item back then.

Mine is pretty much an art piece among my system that serves no real purpose other than to look beautiful and impressive.

The best thing I've ever heard was a rebuilt Ampex from their glory days.  Sorry, I don't remember the model.

I really think the the idler arm setup in reel to reels is the most important reason that they sound so good.  Properly set up, idler arm equipment seems to give the best combination of speed control (belts don't do that well) and isolation (direct drive struggles with that issue).

Haven't really seriously looked at that theory above, but it seems to make sense.