Capture Audio Tape the new kid on the block!

What? Another new analog tape on the open reel audio niche? Who needs another tape? Are these people crazy? Those are some of the interrogatives from the open reel users when they heard about the new Capture Tape from Oregon. In my case, I didn’t play the skeptic this time. On the contrary; I was really happy to know that now is the best time to be an open reel aficionado!

Carlos sample reel were sent in a cardboard box on the hub

Splicit is the name of the brave people who took this enterprise on hand and is contributing more than many to expand the life of a “once lost” hobby: open reel recording. Who are they? Well, let’s the owner of the company, Roger Cunningham, speak by himself: We created Splicit Reel Audio Products 13 years ago to help preserve analog tape media. We are a small company and we work very hard to bring you quality products at fair prices. We will not be “re-branding” anyone’s old unused tape nor will any components used in marketing the tape be “cheap”. The tape is not plastic…it is Polyester and yes it’s Bias properties are very similar to the old Quantegy 456. We are trying to bring you a tape that is affordable and yet quality made. It is not our intention to sell “re-branded” old tape from Quantegy, Ampex, Zonal or anyone else. The 820 and 840 series numbers are from the manufacturer. We have partnered with the manufacturer that used to make tape for Zonal. It has been improved and upgraded and is being produced fresh for us. I believe this is a good product that will perform quite nicely as a general purpose music recording tape in the home. I personally have tested it on Ampex, Otari, Tascam and several other decks with excellent results. I was pleasantly surprised. It reproduces nice clean highs and solid punchy bass. It should also be known that we are not in competition with Pyral or ATR. They are both excellent products and have their places in the marketplace. As I have stated before…we simply wanted to offer you a quality recording tape at a great price. I think you’ll be pleased. 7” x 1200’ and 7” x 1800’ reels and pancakes of 1/4” x 2500’ and 1/4” 3600’ will all be available soon. Prices will be announced soon. The name will be known as “Capture”.

The Capture’s hub on a aluminum flange

There you go folks. Clearer than the Coors Light Rocky Mountains water, ha! The man believes in his project and it’s been very honest and realistic. He’s not interested to embark on a work against the 2 reigning giants but he’s offering a new alternative, specifically for the home recordist.

The Tape: We received our sample “on the hub” in a cardboard box. The appearance of the tape in general is completely neat, tightly packed, dark color and in excellent condition. The “candy” smell filled my recording studio C for a while, probably as a result of the solvent used during the manufacturing process. I have to confess that I never used Zonal tape during the 90’s and don’t know much about that company either,so, I’m fresh to this tape as my Crown CX-822 is to the Capture’s formula. By the way; this is what the tape developer himself told me:

The formula is not owned or never was owned by Zonal.  It is the property of the company I am working with.  We have made some more slight changes to the formulation and corrected any width problems.

Tape inside the Ampex 456 flanges on Carols Crown CX 822

We proceeded to take the hub and put it inside an Ampex 456 flanges that I keep for this purpose and loaded it into its final destination: an empty TDK LX-50 aluminum reel. During the winding process we immediately noticed the problem mentioned to us about the slitting and indeed, the tape is a hair wider than it should be! Heavy debris accumulated on the tape guides to the point that it was intervening with the tape loading into the receiving reel. We took some close up photos for you to see how bad it is. Anyway, we were told in advance about this situation,so we just cleaned the guides and continued with our tests. No problem at all. Our stretch test was done and compared to the Pyral and ATR. This tape is thinner. No doubt about it. ATR is the thickest, followed by Pyral and then Capture. This is not an indication of quality in any sense and usually the thicker the tape the strongest, but the thinner tape usually molds better to the heads geometry! When I was in the tape duplication business, cassette tape pancakes were supplied in C-60 and C-90 thickness. We always used the C-90 because it wrapped better around the heads than the C-60 and that is a fact! You have to be a duplicator to experience it. As simple as that. After the stretch test, we ran our Crown @ 15ips for a while to check how clean the tape runs. For our surprise, besides the already mentioned debris on the guides, the heads and capstan came almost clear! So, we can say that this tape runs very clean, just as the Pyral does.

Tape loaded permanently into the TDK aluminum reel

Heavy debris left on the tape guides. You can hardly see it because it’s black

Recording: After cleaning the debris, we started our bias adj. process and just as Roger said, this tape is compatible with the Ampex 456, but not with the Pyral LPR 35 or the new ATR 36. It required us to turn the bias adj knob just 1/8 to obtain the proper bias as it was a “little under” Pyrals’ and ATR’s.

Bias adjustment for the Capture tape.

Once the proper bias was obtain, we choose a high energy material on CD playing from our Arcam/EAD CDP combo. We calibrated our levels to a constant “0” with peaks up to +3 at 250 nwb. It took all we threw at it without any stress whatsoever. Clean mids and solid bass all the time. On the highs, we belief that it is a hair darker than the other 2 brands tested, but just a hair. Decent highs, by all means, but not as extended as with the other tapes we have already tried. We’ll have to verify this at our Studio A with our weekend panel. A nice excuse for a good BBQ, Grey Goose and nice cigars!

Listening: As with the other tapes we have tested before, we invited a group of friends related with the audio business for many years . Unfortunately, this time our recording engineer extraordinaire, Mr. Papo Sanchez, was not available as he was in New York mixing someone’s project and my youngest son William, a recording aficionado and music arranger, took his place. He’s also one of Papo’s protegé. For this test we recorded a section of “Son de la Loma” track, by Orquesta Nova from New York, a Chesky’s Record, on 3 different tapes on hand: an old Maxell XL 1, ATR 36 and Capture’s. We spliced all 3: ATR, Capture and Maxell in that specific order and continuously separated by a clear leader tape. We did it this way in order for the Crown to stop after playing each section to give time for the panel to write down their reactions.

Splicing done.

Results: Besides me, nobody else knew about the splicing order. Not even my son. We ran the tape twice and the results were consistent: the tape of the middle (Capture) was more neutral than the other 2 options and a little “darker” too. It was consistent with our original findings. Let us clarify, though, that unless you compare the Capture against other formulas, like the ones we have on hand, you wouldn’t notice any lack of “highs” and you’ll be perfectly happy with it. Guaranteed! The panel was perfectly happy with what they were hearing and could happily live with any of the tapes tested. I do have to say that the Maxell XL-1 formula has always amazed me due to its durability and excellent sound. I mean, this is a 1987 tape, bulk erased and re-recorded again after 29 years! If Capture’s tape has this kind of property we’ll have a clear winner here. Stay tuned for our follow up review in the year 2035! Ha!

Recording on the CX-822

Conclusions: Knowing that the industry has not abandoned us yet is a big relief. People like Splicit, committed with the analog audio and tape recording niche, gives the hobbyist an air of hope during this digital era. Not many people has the “cojones” as Roger has to embark on this kind of SAGA in a market heavily dominated by 2 giants. His passion for tape is evident as I don’t envision him to get rich with all this, but at least I’m sure that John Q. Recordist would sponsor him and acquire his tapes for home recording use. I know it because I’m one of those who already ordered the Capture’s tape as soon as the new batch arrives with the slitting problem solved. That’s how much I liked it! I wouldn’t stop endorsing Pyral or ATR either, and if the gossip I received from an old friend of mine (directly from Japan) of a Maxell’s comeback  is true, I’ll surely use it too, but there will always be a significant place at our studios for Roger’s tape. That’s for sure!

NOTE: The author wants to extend his gratitude to Tapeheads and Pacific Stereo for letting us share our experiences in his website.

About the author:

Carlos J Guzman, El Magnifico, has been involved with the audio business for over 35 years. He has participated in many audio and music segments, including: recording, duplication, high end audio sales, musician and mastering engineer among many others. He is the former owner of CopyTech Coproration, what used to be the biggest media duplicator in the Caribbean. The audio business runs in his family veins as his father, the late Dr. Carlos Guzmán Sr, was one of the most accomplished popular music collectors of his era.  In his mastering suite, Carlos performed over 1,000+ projects earning several gold and platinum records including a Grammy in 2002. He’s an avid vintage gear collector and specializes in cassette and open reel decks. His tape decks collection is the biggest one in Puerto Rico with over 20 pieces in perfect operating order. He holds several college degrees from the University of Puerto Rico and Fort Hays State University as well.