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I've noticed that prerecorded 2-tracks are at a low right now. ECS-1 just went for $125 while a few of the really good Mercurys sold for under $50. And some aren't even getting bids ...
RTR tapes from ebay is the condition. It's a crapshoot to say the least. I know they always say the magic word like "no oxidation and it's hardly been played or it's been stored on a temperature controlled environment ...etc." but you can't really be sure unless you visually inspected it and listen to it at the same time. The last pre recorded RTR tapes that I bought was from our local dealer. Even though I inspected and listen to it before pulling the trigger, still there were some issues with sound dropouts and getting sticky halfway through the album.
In my case, all my 2T RTR tapes now a days were either recorded from my VPI TT or from my ARC CDP at 15IPS speed on my Revox PR99 MKII. I'm quite happy with the sound quality as the matter of fact one listener commented on it that the sound quality is just as good as the source.
If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well
Agree, it's a crapshoot. It helps a bit that sellers now describe tapes as "TESTED" which lets you know they've at least tried to listen to them. That still doesn't guarantee a good tape. Best to buy from a seller with a good feedback rating and a reasonable return policy. If the tape is not tested, you really never know what you will get. For example: I recently bought a tape of Bach organ music where the entire Toccata of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor was missing. The seller fortunately refunded my money.
The Steve Hoffman forum had a discussion on buying Capitol 2-track tapes. Several collectors said they occasionally had to buy 2 or 3 or more copies in order to get a perfect one. That may be the bottom line ...
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