January 28, 2021 2 min read

With the resurgence of reel-to-reel tape decks, it is being said that reel-to-reel tape is the new vinyl, however, there is no comparison other than they are both ways to record and listen to what has been recorded, much like apples and oranges are both food that is fruit. Where anyone can go to one of the numerous used record stores and grab some great discs, it is not the same quality of sound as with what is available using today’s high quality reel-to-reel tape, paired with a quality recording process. Hands down reel-to-reel tape is superior and that’s what audiophiles crave.

If you are just getting into reel-to-reels, here is a look at both reel-to-reel audio tape recording decks and the tape reels themselves.

About the Decks

There are three categories of reel-to-reel machines:

  • Consumer or domestic
  • Semi-professional or prosumer
  • Professional

Consumer: These reel-to-reel machines were much like purchasing a record player from Sears in the 1960’s and 70’s, many times the speakers were built into the lid of the tape-recording device. Such brands as Sanyo, Toshiba, JVC, Aiwa, Sony, and Concord, Akai, Sony, and Teac were available for casual at home use. 

Semi-Professional: In the 1970’s along came semi-professional reel-to-reel decks. These prosumer audio decks had more features than the original consumer audio decks and were more durable as well so the at home musician could frequently move between functions without breaking something.  Here are popular brands that were used by home studio musicians; Tascam, Studer, Otari, Revox, and Fostex.

Professional: These machines were designed for 12-hour recording sessions, they were used in studios and other commercial applications, they do make noise so were often housed away from the actual recording studio and were operated by a wired remote. Some professional reel-to-reel decks are made by Tascam, Studer, Ampex, 3M, Otari, Sony, Nagra, Crown and MCI.

About the Reels

The most common sized tape reels are 5”, 7” and 10.5” (usually referred to as 10 “). There are two common types of spools or reels, NAB and CINE aka Trident. Back in the day NAB were used professionally in studios while CINE was for home use. Most consumer reel-to-reel decks played commercially released five- and seven-inch tapes, while 10.5” was for master tape copies. For playing vintage commercially released tapes you will need CINE reels, however for current and vintage master tapes you will need a NAB hub adapter.

Typically, the take-up reels are made from metal or aluminum, however RX Reels are 10.5” ¼” tape spools made from carbon fiber! So why are RX Reels carbon fiber take-up reels different?

  • Carbon Fiber 10-inch reels are stronger than steel
  • Carbon Fiber 10-inch reels are lighter than aluminum
  • Carbon Fiber 10-inch tape reels resist warping
  • Carbon Fiber 10-inch tape spools are made with resourced carbon fiber from the military and aviation industries
  • Carbon Fiber 10-inch reels for ¼ inch tape come in interesting colors and designer patterns to give your system a sleek modern look






Kevin Root
Kevin Root

Also in Reel News

Studer Reel to Reel Open Reel Tape Player
Remastering Reel-to-Reel Tape Recordings To Digital Audio

November 23, 2022 8 min read

In this article we take a look at re-mastering reel to reel and/or cassette tapes to digital, while not only preserving the original recording quality, but, in some cases, improving it.
10" reel to reel player for open reel tape
Pro-Tips: Reel to Reel Buying, Playing & Optimizing the Tape Experience

October 03, 2022 9 min read

We get asked a lot of questions about reel to reel players. These range from how to buy one to recording, playback and the maintenance of both tapes and decks. We thought it would be helpful to assemble a list of tips and suggestions from our reel to reel community as well as some notable experts around the industry.
RX Reels’ prototype 7-inch carbon fiber reel for open reel tape players
Ken Kessler's Review of RX Reels 7 inch Carbon Fiber Reel

September 22, 2022 7 min read

Running a finger over the spooled tape reveals no unevenness, no ridges. It made me think of (and I compared them to) fresh blank tape as it arrived from the factory. For this alone, anyone who uses 7-inch spools on a regular basis should purchase at least one for critical playback of treasured tapes.