Today, reel to reel players are making a comeback with audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike. There are a lot of people who are buying reel to reel players for the first time and many of them are new to using an open reel deck.
A question that comes up a lot is, “how can I use my streaming service with a reel to reel?”
Another variation of that question is from those wondering if they will be limited to only recording music from a turntable.
I am happy to report that not only can you record digital music from your streaming service to your reel to reel player, but that it may actually sound better when doing so. So much in fact, I found that running the digital stream through my reel to reel directly enhances the sound of the streaming service – without needing to record it.
The reason is running the digital signal through an analog circuit just sweetens up the overall sound. It's warmer and on my tube amp / preamp, the output is absolutely wonderful.
The other benefit is with recording and playback. I use Tidal and find that I can assemble a playlist to be recorded quickly and easily. I cue it up, set up the tape player, hit record and can walk away until it’s time to flip the reel. Using high quality tape like ATR master tape and a high-quality bit rate digital source from Tidal and others, the recordings are simply outstanding in my opinion. When conducting head to head comparisons of the original source on vinyl verses this digital / analog combination, the digital analog combo frequently wins over a vinyl source, especially one that suffers from poor or moderate engineering.
Many DACs today stream Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz natively so you can directly output from the DAC into the reel to reel – then from the reel to reel into the preamp. This enables you to run the streaming signal through the reel to reel at all times and typically provides a richer sound to any digital stream.
It’s an easy thing to test to see if you like this combination as much as we do.
Martin Pipe takes up his tape with this superbly-made reel from the USA.
If you take reel-to-reel seriously, do yourself a favour and give an RX Reel a spin. It takes better care of your precious tape, will aid sound quality and could even prolong the life of your machine. Oh, and it looks the business too!