Print-through is the magnetic phenomena that occurs when a tape signal is imprinted on to the adjacent layer of tape during storage. During playback it is heard as either pre or post-echo, and it is more noticeable at high recorded signal levels. When tapes are stored “heads out” (oxide in), a faint echo will be heard before the main signal during playback. When tapes are stored “tails out” (oxide out), a post-echo will be heard after the main signal during playback. The post-echo is less obvious than the pre-echo, which is one of the reasons tapes should be stored tails out.
Pre-echo is also a problem in disc recordings where the groove might modulate so much as to affect its neighboring instance.
Can it be fixed?
There are two common fixes for print-through:
- Rewind the tape, at least three times, prior to playback.1
- If you have a tape machine that can apply low level bias, engaging it can help mitigate print-through, “though it may also have an effect [on] the signal, especially if over-applied, and should only be used as a last resort and then every carefully.”2
Listen to a tape with print-through on SoundCloud
- Glenn D. White and Gary J. Louie, The audio dictionary (3rd ed.), (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005), 310.
- Print-through at Rane.com’s Pro Audio Reference
- Minimising Print-through (PDF) by Michael Gerzon
1. Kevin Bradley (ed), “Removal of Storage Related Signal Artefacts” in Guidelines on the production and preservation of digital audio objects, IASA TC-04 (2nd ed., 2009). ↩
2. Bradley, “Removal of Storage Related Signal Artefacts.” ↩