Best REEL TO REEL blank tape?

Hi. I am about to buy a Pioneer RT 909 open reel tape deck to record many of my LPs on. I have been out of the open reel tape deck game for more years than I can count. My understanding is that Maxell UD-180 tape is top notch (the "best" is always debatable). I also understand that this Maxell tape was their latest to be manufactured -- late '90s -- 2003. Are my assumptions correct? What open reel tape do YOU recommend for 10" reels and why? Thanks for your help. Cal.
Well first I will tell you that recording your vinyl to open reel is going to become an expensive undertaking. Unless you have some very prized collectable albums your money would be better off spent on a higher end Analog to Digital converter like a Apogee rosetta 200.
Transfer your vinyl over to a computer based server connected to your audio system

To answer your original question, pass on the Maxell tape at best you will only be able to purchase NOS tape. Who knows how it was stored. That will always be a mystery. Not to mention the hassle competing in some Flea-bay auction for a few NOS tapes that are bid up well beyond what they are realy worth.

Go to US recording online and purchase fresh RMGI tape for a consumer level deck. If you have a Studer A-810 Otari 5050 or something further up the food chain you can give the ATR tape a try.
ATR is great tape for 15ips recording and do make excellent live recordings.
For what you are going to pay for 10+ year old Maxell tape you will be close to new RMGI and this will help to support both companies to continue to produce new fresh stock
Why not try one of each and compare? Also, your deck might've been tuned to record best on particular brand and model. Have you had it aligned and cleaned recently?
I don't know much about R2R but for my Nak I use Maxell Vertex tape which is by far the very best. I did hear that the Maxell tape you mentioned is excellent.
Great project, by the way. I do the same but with cassettes so far. Might get R2R later though.
Found the Maxell tape to be excellent. The TDK tape very fine as well. Most of my LP to tape transfer done with the Maxell brand. Loads of fun. That being said. Apachef1 comments makes a lot of sense.
For myself having a R2R was the most fun of all my gear. It was a great joy. And this hobby is not always about what makes the most sense. I have not used mine in some time and finally will seek to sale my Teac X-10. So if you are in the market for one or two overpriced questionably stored nib 10 inch reel tapes email me.
By the by the Pioneer is a sweet deck. Nothing beats a R2R for the joy.
Why put vinyl on tape? Just keep the vinyl and maintain a good turntable. I have few R2R decks together with a large collection of commercially pre-recorded tapes. These tapes sound great, many of which were commercially recorded from vinyl and used in broadcast applications. Analogue sound is much better then digital. I have found little sense in taking any of my vinyl and putting it on tape. I do not do vinyl to digital transfers either, too time consuming. Better to just enjoy the music.
Hi,I have been collecting open reel tape decks for over 30 years,i currently have about 40,including Studer,Revox,Otari,Teac,Tascam,Pioneer,Akai & Technics.I prefer the 2-track machines,but some of the 4-tracks can also sound good,including the Pioneers. As to tape,i have never had any problem with Maxell UD,UDXL,UDXL-1 tapes,they do not stick or shed,so if you want to buy used & if they are wound correctly, you can save a little money on them.Look for the white & black boxes or the blue & black boxes as they are the most recent production.I also agree that the RMGI tapes from us recording media are great tapes to use if you want new,they will give a little discount when you buy more.I have used all these tapes on my Studer 810 & Tascam BR-20 & they all sound great.
Quantegy 456 reel to reel with black backing is what I bought last, it's good. They will also tell you how to convert the bias instructions in your manual to their tape.

I'm curious why you want to do this. The tape will be as expensive if not more than the record plus the effort of recording. Tapes also deteriorate just sitting there, records don't. You also need to be concerned about setting up the deck properly and whether or not the heads are properly aligned and the bias is set. You gain nothing in convenience as playing the tape is as much or more of a hassle than the record. Seems like a lot of work and expense for no benefit.

Why not play the record and just buy extra copies of your favorites if you are concerned about preservation, it will be cheaper in the long run. I do see why people would want to digitize something; that does it make it more convenient and portable, but what is the benefit of R2R?

Great comments - all. My interest in buying R2R is a romantic one. And romance makes no sense. One of my first "higher end" audio experiences was listening to Supertramp's CRIME OF THE CENTURY on an open reel deck (Teac) turning at 15 ips. The music was SO MUCH MORE INVOLVING than listening to the LP or the cassette. I get bored just sitting and listening to a SACD/CD today. Vinyl is a bit more involving but I just love watching those 10" reels turn. EVERYTHING posted so far makes sense to me. But why we love what we love (passion) comes from within and to try and figure it out logically will only cause frustration and conflict. I figure, audio is my hobby. I want to have fun with it. Thank you ALL for your input. Audiogon is a great place.
Dramapsycho, you are a man after my own heart. Reel to reel is superior to everything. With my 2 track Technics, the speakers even get bigger.

Once you record that vinyl, it will sound better on playback than it did when you recorded it. Find "Reel to reel" on the analog forum; there were some fantastic discussions which will be highly beneficial. When you are sitting in the sweet spot watching those 10" reels turn and enjoying that liquid sound of R to R, think of Orpheus doing likewise.
Some records are very valuable and either virtually irreplaceable or/and very expensive to replace.
Also, I rarely listen to the entire side of a record, I may listen to a track or two so compilations make sense to me.
40 open reel decks, oh man. I would probably have five or so if I could, say, Studer, Nagra, Ampex, Otari, Technics.

I completely understand the fun of playing around with it and watching the reels spin. I had a pretty nice Teac deck at one time and enjoyed fiddling around with it but sold it when the price of blank tapes got so expensive and I realized I would never have many tapes. But the idea that putting something on tape and playing it back makes it sound better is completely foreign to me. Sounds different of course since you will be applying EQ with transistor circuits and playing back through more transistor circuits, but since all you can do in the process is lose information and add distortion I'm not buying into it sounds better unless the distortion it introduces is pleasing to your ear. It might be and the fun factor is there so I say go for it if you want to hassle with it.



Herman my friend, go to reel to reel on this forum and be enlightened. All things are foreign until you have experienced them.

I understand completely, I do not need to be enlightened.

It distorts what's on the record in a way that you find pleasing. You choose to call this "better." I have no problem with that.

By recording it you change the frequency response both recording and playing back, the dynamic range changes, there is distortion from wow and flutter as well as the introduction of tape hiss and distortion on peaks when it saturates. You also introduce harmonic distortion in the active devices (transistor or tube) that you've added as well as the cabling. This can't be argued. These distortions are very real and measurable.

I'm sure there are many records that do benefit from this distortion. Better is in the ear of the beholder but don't try to make it sound like something magical is going on.

Yes, this better/worse/different subject was extensively discussed here. In some ways some recordings can sound better to some ears, mine included. But it takes a well-aligned and tuned great deck with great tape to make this discussion valid, I think.


I'm unacquainted with the RT 909...can you bias the deck for a particular tape?

C1ferrai -- not sure. I am less into "perfect" sound with this R2R project. I believe that Maxell UD tape will work just fine as will some of the current production tape from U.S. Recording (referenced in an earlier post on this thread). I will be taping LPs from a Clearaudio Concept table and I just want to have fun with my music and watch the reels spin. If you have doubts about the Maxell UD type tape then please let me know.


Is there a recommended tape type/formulation in the owner's/operator's manual?

Should there be one, I would suggest communicating the info to U.S. Recording, for example, and obtaining the identical tape or its closest analog -- hehe :-)

The manual will have a "bias" and "eq" for various tapes. When using tape not found in the manual, the new tape will have instructions how to set "bias" and "eq" that corresponds to the old tape in your manual.
All tape machines can be biased for a particular tape. Most of them require that a technician do the work.

BTW, if the machine is *not* set up for a particular tape, there is no point in auditioning the differences between tape, as the issues of highs and lows are usually also dealt with in the setup/bias procedure.

Shedding is a phenomena of all polyester-backed tapes. It can be reduced by storing them in a low humidity environment. If a tape does start to shed, it can be 'baked' for about an hour at about 120-150 degrees to chase the moisture out of the polyester. This will get rid of the shedding/sticking problem for months or years. OTOH some tapes can be so saturated with moisture that they will be too far gone. This baking procedure can be a bit of an art, BTW, but if done right can get a lot of older tapes back into service.

Have fun :)
Nobody has added a response to this thread for 5 years. But it still comes up on Google as the first search result for "Best Reel Tape". So how about the latest ideas about which tapes are worth searching for, either used on Ebay or current production? I believe Pyral (formally RMGI) is the only new option now. My first advice is BUY NEW from a Pyral dealer, to support the continuation of new production. Their 468, 911 and 900 are generally considered the best there is.

My second advice is before you chose any tape, you must decide how hot a tape is appropriate for your machine. Then within each range, there are a few "best" tapes to look for. There is no reason to settle on just one tape in particular, unless your machine must be opened up to adjust bias, sensitivity and EQ. For Otari owners (me for example), and for many other semi-professional decks, we have test-tones and external adjustments to adjust and optimize for any tape within the limits of our decks' performance.

For the 0dB applications: Maxell UD, UD-XL, UD-XL1, TDK LX and TDK GX are great and plentiful. For +3 dB tape: BASF/RMGI/Pyral 911 or Quantegy 456 (not Ampex 456 though). For +6 dB tape: Ampex/Quantegy GP9, Quantegy 499 (not Ampex), ATR Master, BASF/RMGI/Pyral 900, Agfa/BASF/Emtec/RMGI 468 are all great. You cannot go wrong with Maxell, TDK, and ANY manufacturer of 900, 911, GP9 or 468, because these formulations NEVER had a widespread problem with sticky-shed. And, you can never go wrong with ANY non-backcoated tape from the past. If the back and front are the same color, it will play fine. If the backing is black, you MUST know exactly what tape it is before you subject your valuable tape machine's heads to that tape.

Again, if the backing of the tape is black, and you don't know EXACTLY what tape it is (and what year of manfacture) then you should remove the tape and throw it away. Keep the empty reels for new tape.

Ok, how did I do? Did I miss anything?
I am glad this thread is alive, though I don't have any reel to reel deck. Hope to get Otari or Studer one day.
I have Nakamichi 682ZX cassette deck in top condition and use almost exclusively Maxell Metal Vertex backcoated tape. Never had any problems. This tape is the best there is for cassette decks.
I'm transferring all of my LPs to sheet music so I can get musicians to come over and play everything live. The early Jethro Tull stuff should be interesting...
I'm another R2R tape fan. 15 IPS 2 1/4 inch track tape replay is about as good as one can get, unless you get lucky finding 1/2 inch masters.

Personally I use the RMGi (now Recording the Masters) brand, which is the continuation of the classic BASF and AGFA formulations. My normal tapes are either SM911 (1.5 mil base) or LPR35 (same formulation as SM911 but on a long play 1 mil base). I use 2 x Sony APR 5003 and a Studer A807/II. I have too many R2Rs and am reluctantly letting my Revox G36 High Speed go.
The reason I put some vinyl on R2R is because some albums only have a few good songs.
Take Adam Ant,I have the entire catalog but Stripped and Vive Le Rock only have a few good cuts so I put those on tape and put the albums in a box. When the box is full I take them down and cash them in for store credit. I’m thinning out the herd,I have close to 20,000 albums and I ain’t getting any younger. It’s a process...
If you're already going through the trouble of transferring your vinyl to tape, might as well get the best sound you can. As mentioned above, 15ips 2-track on 1/4 tape is about the best you can get. The sound of tape is second to none and there's a big difference in sound quality between 2-track and 4-track. If you've already purchased the RT-909 than 2-track wouldn't be an option.
while what you say is absolutely true, I consider 15 IPS a waste of tape; that would only be for a live musical event. I can't tell the difference between 15 IPS and 7 1/2 IPS for CD's and LP's; but if the tape isn't a problem, why not?  And of course the machine has to be 2 track. 

If anyone stops to figure how much 15 IPS on 2 track is going to cost, as well as the shorter time for what they're getting, they might reconsider after they experiment.  But since this is theoretical, why not.
@qdrone those are precisely my reasons for making tapes. There are millions of us who have been doing it for decades. I've done ADC with good results (better than the commercial CDs) but still prefer tape for the sound. 
I'm still not all together clear on the best sources for new R2R tape purchases. Please help.

Can't help with the USA. In Europe, Thomann is very competitive on pricing for Recording the Masters tapes (formerly RMGi, Pyral, BASF, EMTEC, Agfa etc) - SM900, SM911, 468, LPR 35.

In the UKL, Tape City usually have stock ready to ship, albeit a tiny bit more expensive than Thomann
Since this thread began a few things have changed in the reel to reel landscape.  RMGI is now Recording The Masters, ATR is making a consumer tape called MDS-36 and a new brand called Capture is making two tapes.  

However reel to reel hasn't gotten significantly cheaper to run except Capture is a bit less money than ATR and RTM.  Quality for Capture is said to be very good.  Now recording vinyl to reel to reel at any reasonably good speed is still hardly worth the fuss.  I haven't put a vinyl album onto RTR tape in over 30 years.  However many of my favorite CD's have gone onto the RTR.  The RTR adds back the missing analogue character which is why I do it.  There's nothing sonically to be gained by putting vinyl onto RTR and at current tape prices makes little sense.  

I'm all in favor of dubbing vinyl into hi res digital or if you really must have it on tape invest in a good three head cassette deck.  The better three head decks can match many of the consumer reel to reel machines if set up well and using good tape.  If new RTR tape wasn't $30 a 7" reel it could almost be argued that taping a new $25 vinyl pressing has merit but sad to say those days are gone.  That's why I choose to record digital music onto tape since there is at least the payoff of arguably better sound.
Wrong on a few points. First, I have Nakamichi 682ZX cassette deck with custom transformer which is tuned as well as it can be. I also use Purist Audio Neptune top level interconnects with it. It cannot fully match my Nottingham turntable even when using the best tape there is - Maxell Metal Vertex. The deck wouldn’t match top cd player either, I just don’t have one.
Second, It makes a lot of sense to record to tape if you like compilations. I do. I have few records that I listen from first to last cut.
Third. Some of my records are very valuable to me, hard or impossible to replace, so I don’t play them at all, I make recordings.
Besides, good tape on well-maintained deck will last for hundreds or even thousands of plays without deterioration. I have couple of Vertex cassettes with more than 500 plays on them. Records become noisy and wear out, any records no matter how you take care of them.
So, vinyl is great to play but even greater for archive, this is your ’master copy’
Cost for blank tape is reasonable. If you do a lot of recordings at 15ips, yes, quite expensive. For many recordings 7 1/2 two track is sufficient.
Finally, good sound always costs some, and it should.
I record digital too, make compilations. Yeah, sounds a little less digital but not by much.
You really need to use maxell or TDK with the 909. Newer formulations, especially the +6 tapes will be grossly under biased on the 909.  

I have maxell tape that is 40 years old and never had any problems that I often experience with the 'professional' tapes.

Also a big fan of AGFA and BASF formulas.

Enjoy the 909.

Now that's expensive. Maxell back coated 10" new was $100 last time I looked. Vertex cassette has exactly the same tape, I think.