Basics of Alignments on Reel to Reel Tape Player

Open Reel Tape Player Alignment:

Today, CDs and MP3s dominating the music market and not much maintenance is required. Somewhere along the line a loss of performance in High Fidelity is quite noticeable to the trained ear and the advanced music lover.

Tubes ( Valves ) have seen a comeback, so have Vinyl records. Nevertheless, Pre-recorded tapes dominated the Market of the Hi-Fi purist. It was the medium used to first introduce Stereo in 1955. Stereo Records were not available until about 1958/59.

So most Stereo recordings from the mid fifties are only available as two track tapes.

These tapes are in such a good quality that they easily outperform CDs.


The quality in Open Reel Tape Recording is determined by four factors:

    • 1. Speed:
    • As higher the speed, as higher the highest possible frequency that can be recorded and less background hiss noise. This is inter linked with:

    • 2. Recording + Playback Head Gap:
    • The Gap determines the highest possible recorded frequency. As more narrow the GAP as higher this frequency will be and  the max. sustainable Flux-level or energy to magnetize the tape becomes greater. The typical Gap for a recording head is 7.0μm(0.25 mil) and 3.0μm(0.12 mil)1 for the playback head.

    • 3. Track Width:
    • There are 3 Options available to configure a standard 1/4" Tape:

      a) Full Track a little bit less than 1/4" useable track

      b) Half Track either NAB, Ampex or IEC ( in the Picture below Euro Stereo Track means IEC )

      c) Quarter Track   ( Consumer Equipment )  

    • 4. Operating Level (Studio Level +6dBu / Home Equipment -10dBu to -5dBu)

    This is how a 1/4" Tape is divided into several tracks:


     1 Studer Tape Heads: as per RMGI Studio Master SM 468 Technical Datasheet Page 4 2. Measurement Conditions

    Reel to Reel Tape Players will have to undergo periodic maintenance in order to perform properly.

    The Maintenance required on a regular interval is as follows:

  • 1. Head and Capstan Cleaning & De Magnetizing:
  • Clean Head and Capstan with a Q-Tip / Cotton Swap and denatured alcohol and remove all tape residue and De Magnetize all Heads and Metal Parts which come in contact with Tape.

    We will post a How To Video sometime here on this Page as time permits

  • 2. Speed and Break Calibration:
  • You will need various different Test Equipment in Order and the Manufacturers Service Manual to do this correctly for your Tape Player

    We will post a How To Video sometime here on this Page as time permits

  • 2. Head Alignment:
  • For a Head Alignment you will need a Two Channel Oscilloscope, Signal Generator and a Calibration Tape. We will post a How To Video sometime here on this Page as time permits

  • 3. Calibration of Playback and Record Amplifier with correct BIAS for your Tape:
  • To do a Full Tape Player Calibration you will need a Two Channel Oscilloscope, Signal Generator, Digital Meter with dB(u) range and a Calibration Tape.

    You will also have to decide of which blank type of tape you prefer for recording, as this will determine the correct Operating Level and BIAS required.

    We will post a How To Video sometime here on this Page as time permits

    You can contact us here if you would like to us to do a full calibration (Service with no Repair) of your Reel To Reel Tape Player.

    The cost is usually $ 100.00 for the complete service, without any repairs, if required.

    Shipping can be arranged through UPS / FEDEX with discounted rates. So, please feel free to contact us and discuss your particular needs!