Home Tape Trail

Reel to reel, cassette and other analogue tape formats.

Standard nomenclature for tape generations

At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest, I'd like to propose that the Tape Trail subscribers confer on the establishment of an accepted standard of naming for the various generations of reel to reel recordings. In the past few years particularly on eBay many various terms have been used to describe 15ips tapes listed for sale. Various terms have been thrown about casually there and I know of several not to be named vendors who have been offering 15ips tapes labeled as Masters, Protection Copies, etc that were clearly made from sources like CDs or 7.5ips prerecords. The proof of this is the availability of analog titles originally recorded in digital long after the practice of an analog backup master being made simultaneously with the digital master in the early 1980s. As well this past year I have seen the appearance of attractively packaged 15ips tapes advertised as Radio Station copies, a practice that as far as I know never existed. But please correct me if I am wrong on this.

So, starting at the original recording studio:

Generation 1: Original session tapes should be called "Original Work Parts". They include all the takes made during the recording, usually have verbal take cues and often include dialog between the control room and the performers. It is unlikely that many of these ever show up outside the original studio, although I have found some from Westminster, Sudwest Rundfunk, Australian Broadcasting Corp, etc. In all cases they would be properly labeled as such by the original recording studio UNLESS the original setup boxes deteriorated and had to be replaced. My practice here is to salvage the original studio labelling and attach it to a new clean setup box.

Generation 2: The work parts might be duplicated before editing or the original parts themselves might be cut. But once editing is complete the spliced finished product would be called "Edited Work Parts". As in the case of Original Work Parts these rarely show up, but when they do they are easily identified by the editing splices and often are accompanied by summary work sheets or logs showing which take each cut was taken from. Again these may have been reboxed, but hopefully the support labelling and logs will be enclosed with the new setup box.

Generation 3: From the edited work parts an original production master would be made for use in all subsequent distribution stages; this might be best called "Original Production Master". Again these rarely leave the original studio UNLESS the studio is defunct. In most cases the setup boxes are well labelled and in the case of continental European studios are often stamped "ORIGINAL". These may be replaced from time to time by the original studio due to overuse and a new master made from the edited work parts.

Generation 4: From the original production master various distribution copies were made for the manufacture of lps, prerecords, cds, cassettes etc; these might best be called "Distribution Masters". These were shipped from the original studio to distribution dubbing centres around the world. These are the tapes that often show up for sale as "masters", as many were discarded by studios during the conversion to digital. In most cases, if the original setup boxes survived they are studio labeled indicating origin and destination: for instance EMI for Vox or Decca for Jugoton. Many of the Deccas and EMIs are labeled indicating the recording deck, source matrix, and destination purpose: e.g. "for cassette manufacture" or "for LP manufacture." In some cases the LP masters indicate what rolloff should be made for feeding the lathe. Many but not all are Dolby A, B or SR encoded.

Generation 5: copies made of Distribution Masters might best be called "Master Dubs".

[As a side note most duplicating masters for 7.5ips would probably fall in Generation 5, and all too often the prerecords themselves would be Generation 6 and manufactured at 30ips or higher on multi gang dubbers, Barclay Crocker excepted I believe.]

Now the fun part begins:

We see the terms "Protection Copy" or "Protection Master" used fairly frequently. However, not knowing what the source may have been it is impossible to determine what generation it might be. An original studio labeled PC would most likely have been made from the Original Production Master, or even the Edited Work Parts themselves. However, it is also possible that a legitimate protection copy may have been made from a failing Distribution Master. So if the term is used correctly a Protection Copy should be no greater than Generation 5.

"Safety Copy" or "Safety Master" are alternate terms for Protection Copy or Protection Master.

A further convolution is the existence of courtesy copies made by engineers for their own use and for circulation to other engineers around the world. This underground exchange resulted in many of the excellent low generation tapes available in private collections today. I propose that the term "Engineer's Copy" be used for these and like Protection Copies they would be probably no higher than Generation 5, but in most cases lower. Provenance is the key issue here. I have found many of these in collections from retired or deceased engineers from Russia, England, Australia, US, Holland, Canada and elsewhere.

Lastly an excellent source of 15ips recordings, particularly of the classical repertoire is the large number of "Broadcast Masters" that were circulated internationally between broadcast networks. These were in most cases live recordings and often have introductory commentary and significant audience noise between movements as as well as applause at the end of each work. These were generally exchanged on a one for one trade basis and are usually fairly well labeled, but rarely boxed. A few years ago CBC here in Canada emptied its library of 1000s of reels of this material, much of which has shown up on eBay. In most cases, I would guess that they are 3rd generation at most: the original recording made at the time of broadcast, being basically the work parts, a distribution master incorporating commentary or cues, and finally the individual broadcast master made for each participating country's broadcaster. If possible it would be best if these were referred to as "Canadian Broadcast Master" or "US Broadcast Master" etc as the case may be, despite the fact that they are made by the original broadcaster. I have come across wonderful Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra recordings in this format, as well as OSR ones from Switzerland, ORF from France, Italy, and so on. [My practice with these (which may raise a few eyebrows) is to replace the pauses between movements with white archival safety leader and to trim off the final applause. This is a personal preference as I find the uproar of the audience disturbing at the end of a work, preferring a period of silence to absorb the final chords. Curiously I have found that European audiences generally delay their applause by about three seconds after the final decay, while North American audiences often drown the final moment with uproarious cheering.]

Nothing here is written in stone and I would welcome input from other members in the hope that the 15ips market can be rationalized and prove a reliable source of excellent recordings.


Edits: 05/08/16 05/08/16 05/08/16 05/08/16

This post is made possible by the generous support of people like you and our sponsors:

Topic - Standard nomenclature for tape generations - hticheno 10:54:17 05/08/16 (5)


Post a Message!

Forgot Password?
Moniker (Username):
Password (Optional):
  Remember my Moniker & Password  (What's this?)    Eat Me
E-Mail (Optional):
Message:   (Posts are subject to Content Rules)
Optional Link URL:
Optional Link Title:
Optional Image URL:
Upload Image:
E-mail Replies:  Automagically notify you when someone responds.