Video Introduction to Scotch / 3M Reel to Reel Tapes

Scotch was the premier reel to reel recording tape manufacturer since they started production in 1948 of the famous 111 “standard play” tape. At the time the formulation was also available with a paper backing.

The 111 put the company on the map, and was used as a studio standard throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. Many of the world’s most famous recordings were made on 111 in that time period. It still offers an excellent sound on machines biased for it. Since was made with an acetate backing, we do not resell them as refurbished due to the inability to guarantee tape condition (the condition of acetate backed tapes is highly dependent on how they were stored). We do sell the 102 version, released in 1952, which offers the same formulation with a tough Mylar backing. The 111 was available until early 1973, marking the end of an amazing 25 year production run!

In 1954 Scotch released the 190 / 150 tapes, their first long play tapes using a “new, high potency oxide” capable of matching the performance of the 111 with a thinner oxide coating (as well as a thinner base material), thus allowing 50% more playing time. These longer tapes later became the most common lengths sold for consumer use. The 150 has proven to be an extremely reliable tape, and it is often found in yard sales as it was so popular for home use. Later in its production run it was sold as a budget tape. It still produces excellent results, particularly at 7.5 ips, with machines biased for it, and is recommended for the older machines or machines with a tape selector or bias adjust. We only sell 150s from the later production runs, as they appear to be polished better and have less oxide shedding than earlier production.

In 1964 Scotch released the first “Low Noise” tape called Dynarange, with formulas 201, 202 and 203 (Standard Play Acetate, Standard Play Mylar and Long Play Mylar respectively). This “Type 2” tape offered a better frequency response with a more polished “Superlife” coating and a noise level 4-6 dB lower than the standard tapes. At the time it was promoted to give the same performance at 3-3/4 ips as the standard tapes at 7-1/2 ips, a claim many tapes have made. As a side note, at the time recording performance was primarily limited by the equipment capabilities and not the tape type, so formulations were made to enhance the limited performance of the equipment by altering the bias requirement and emphasizing the high frequency response, a technique that worked well for TDK in the 1970s.

The Dynarange was an excellent tape and when production was ramping up Scotch sourced quite a bit of tape from their Italian plant, where they produced the 203 (and the rare Double Play 204 which was never made in the USA) as well as the related 215 / 220. Those formulations are classified as type 1 (standard) as they have a higher noise floor than the 203, but better performance than the 111. Tapes made in Italy come with the same gray plastic box that BASF used or related cardboard packaging. You can tell these because the reel is slightly different and there is no “Made in USA” located anywhere. Regardless of where these Dynarange tapes were made, they still perform well and are recommended, and are sold in our store.

In 1969 Scotch released the 206/207, perhaps the world’s first +3 tape with back coating. It is now regarded as a classic master tape formulation, and was highly regarded through the early 1970s. It is classified as a type 3 – Low Noise, High Output tape.  The 206 is the Standard Play (SP) version used for mastering. Many of the world’s most famous recordings from the early 1970s were made on Scotch 206 and many classic machines were calibrated to this tape. This is one of the rare back-coated tapes that has held up well and can be used today – it is still an excellent tape. A similar formulation, called 208/209, are lower output versions of the 206/207 designed for lower print through. They also old up well.

In the 1970s Scotch produced the 250 +6 master tape for studio use while at the same time releasing the “Classic” tape to home users (later reformulated as Scotch “Master”). These were excellent high output tapes – however, some batches suffer from the dreaded “sticky shed” syndrome, where tape lubricating chemicals based on whale oil were phased out for synthetic versions. There are good batches of “Classic” tape, and this tape is excellent – particularly the DP version – which is the only +6 DP tape ever made with the full oxide coating. They are hard to find, but are arguably the best DP tapes ever made.

Later, Scotch exited the consumer market and their tapes were sold under the “3M” brand. All of these tapes supper from sticky-shed syndrome and cannot be recommended today, including the 226/227, 808/809, 966/986 and 996. The 996 was an excellent +9 tape, at the time arguably the best master in the world. ALL of these tapes need to be baked before using.

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