Maxell is a Japanese manufacturer of tapes that started in the 1960s with a fairly standard line of tapes, both Acetate and Polyester “Standard” (Type 1) tapes. They were nothing special for the times and like most of the tapes from this early generation, the formulas were all really similar.
Later, they introduced their LN “Low Noise” and “UD” Ultra Dynamic tapes with regular quality updates. In fact, their last generation “LN” tape was relly a type three “Low Noise / High Output” formulation that was released with an improved UD.
Historically, Maxell’s market reputation was made in the mid 1970s with their UD Series (Ultra Dynamic) tapes, a series of Low Noise / High Output tapes (type 3) that required a higher bias in parallel with TDK’s SD tape. This made these tapes sound brighter on older equipment, and when used with the older (and cheaper) machines at the time, users felt they sounded better due to their better frequency response, particularly at 3-3/4 ips. Later, machines with a tape selector allowed them to be used at the proper bias, where the full capabilities of the tape could be used. The UD tapes still hold their quality today and can be used today – and they still sound brighter on the older machines!
Maxell’s formulas that have withstood the test of time, without sticky shed or excess oxide shedding. Maxell made special note of their unique binder designed to provide a long operating life. Today, the Maxell tapes have developed a reputation of arguably being the best consumer reel to reel tapes ever made. As a result, the UD, UDXL, XL1 and XLII tapes still hold their quality – and their high value – and can be used today.
There were a multiple LN, UD, and XL generations, and their quality generally improved over time, especially through the early generations. The reel design changed at least three times through these generations.
Maxell put a lot of research and development in their tape line, and for the UD Series they developed SP, LP, DP and TP thicknesses. For DP versions, Maxell followed the practice of BASF and AGFA and developed the tape with a 0.75 micron base and a thinner oxide coating than the SP or LP tapes, and the developed a third formula for the TP tape. Their TP tape was – by far – the best ever made, and the only one that could still claim to have a high output. The quality of these tapes still stands out even today – it’s only matched by the formulations made by Agfa and BASF (except for the TP). For some reason, the Maxell tapes – as good as they were – were never adopted in the US or Europe for commercial applications with any real volume.