- Brand: Sony
- Type: SLH
- Reel: 7" (18cm), 10.5" (26.5cm)
- Lengths Available: 1200' (360m), 1800' (550m), 3600' (1100m)
- Thickness: LP (1.0 mil)
- Tape Grade / Performance Level: 3-Low Noise / High Output
- Base Material: Polyester Backcoated
- 2023 Advice: Playback Only - Do Not Record, Sticky Shed - Must be Baked Before Transfer
- Where Produced: Japan
- Mfg Years: Early 1960s - Early 1970s, Late 1970s, 1980s
- Sale Condition: Used - At your own risk
Sony SLH was Sony’s top end, low noise, high output tape, classified type 3 for the consumer market, roughly equivalent to Maxell UD and Scotch’s 207. It was one of the first low noise, high output tapes made, well before other Japanese competitors became famous for their high quality tapes. As new tapes, they were excellent, even at 3-3/4ips. However, throughout the long production run, there were some formulation changes, and many batches have one or more problems, making them not recommended for use today. The line included:
SLH Shiny Back – No Back Coating, No Sticky Shed
SLH-72-370 – 7″ Large Hub Reel, 1200 ft (370m) LP
SLH-7-550 – 7″ Reel, 1800 ft (550m) LP
SLH-10-1100 – 10.5″ Reel, 3600 ft (1100m) LP, also available with a lower cost plastic 10″ reel instead of metal.
SLH w/Back Coating, Sticky Shed in Some Lots – Need to Check
SLH-5-275-BL – 5″ Reel, 900 ft (275m) LP
SLH-72-275-BL – 7″ Large Hub Reel, 900 ft (275m) LP
SLH-72-370-BL – 7″ Large Hub Reel, 1200 ft (370m) LP
SLH-7-550-BL – 7″ Reel, 1800 ft (550m) LP
SLH-7-740-BL – 7″ Reel, 2400 ft (740m), DP
SLH-10-1100-BL – 10.5″ Reel, 3600 ft (1100m)
- You can identify the SLH has a much darker brown and polished finished when compared to the standard PR-150.
- There were two basic versions available – with and without back coating. Packaging changed over the life of the product. The first generation packaging had a silver foil box. The second generation packaging in the 1970s was changed to a yellow box similar to the PR-150, and the later third generation Sony packaging had the SLH in a blue package (see the gallery). The SLH’s also came in plastic-hinged boxes. Throughout all the packaging changes the tape was available with and without the back coating, depending on where you bought them.
- The first generation tapes in the silver foil box have the highest chance of being playable. Even the early back coated tapes seem to play fine, although these tapes might suffer from SBS (Soft Binder Syndrome) that could cause the tapes to squeal. Update 10/2023: We found lots of early gen tapes that are OK to use, including early back coated tapes.
- The second and third generation tapes have many failure modes, sometimes multiple modes at once. The back-coated versions suffer from sticky shed, SBS, and SBF (Sudden Binder Failure), which could be the world record of a tape suffering from the most failure modes at once. The severity depends on the batch and storage conditions. The non-back coated versions seem to fail both from SBS and SBF. Update 10/2023: Some later lots without back coating appear to play fine on certain machines.
- Another way to figure out whether the tapes are usable us by the leader color. If the beginning leader is dark blue with white lettering, the tape is likely an older generation. If it is white with blue lettering, it is newer and more likely to be bad.
- You can try baking the back-coated tapes if you need to save the program material.
- The reels were a high point – their quality is high and they are worth saving if you decide to trash the tape.
- One word about playing tapes that squeal – sometimes the squealing can be treated with various lubricants, surface finishes or even playing cold. We have also successfully played the tapes by changing the tension on them by routing the tape differently through the recorder tape path (depending on the recorder).
- Both series were available in the LP thicknesses in 7″ and 10.5 metal reels. The 1200 ft version used a 7″ reel with a larger hub with the same LP tape thickness. There was also a DP version, with back coating, only available on a 7″ reel.
- Available Refurbished: No we do not sell refurbished reels of SLH but some *might* be available used (sold without a guarantee) in our store that are available for collectors or research purposes. We sell old batches that seem to be able to play, BUT we cannot recommend using these tapes today. Update 7/2023 – we have found that the oldest non-back coated tapes in the silver foil boxes, dated until 1972 or so, seem to work fine, especially in older Sony machines using a pressure had for tape to head contact. There *might* be some tapes in out store available that have been tested to be OK.