Where to buy tape accessories

(If you’re looking for blank tapes, head over to Where to buy blank tapes. For everything else, it’s here.)

Take-up reels, leader tape, splicing blocks… we audiophiles just love to accessorise, and reel-to-reel is no exception! But seriously, tape decks and tapes are a real investment and so it’s vital to take particularly good care of them – which includes using good quality kit.

Below are some of the bits and bobs you’ll most likely be looking for, and some of the places where you’ll find them. Please note: this isn’t a definitive list, nor are these recommendations or ads (I don’t make any income from this site). I’m purely listing various sources I’ve come across along the way along with a few notes about my personal perspectives and ways of doing things (which you may or may not agree with!).

If you find other sources that are worth listing, please do share – drop me a line and I’ll add them here – thanks!

Tape reels

RX Reels colour range

Whether you’re playing or recording tapes, you’ll always have two reels on the deck: the reel the tape is stored on and a supply / take-up / feeder reel (whichever you choose to call it!). Both reels should be of the same size in order to maintain the correct tension during playback, recording and rewinding – otherwise you risk damage to the tape and to your deck. The reel size spans two measurements: the width of the tape (usually quarter-inch) and the diameter of the reel (typically 5, 7 and 10.5 inches). So, for each of the different reel sizes you play or record with, you need a ‘spare’.

You can pick up used tape reels in all of the usual eBay-type places, ranging from cheap plastic to aluminium of varying degrees of quality. Then again, you might want to invest in one or two brand new, high-quality reels. There are a few good reasons for doing so.

ATR NAB Metal Reel

The fact that a well-crafted reel can look very cool is certainly a draw, but for me it’s the performance benefits that make the stronger argument. Vintage, commercially available reels were often designed to be inexpensive to produce and so they weren’t necessarily of great quality. Your take-up reel gets a significant amount of use and so it’s subject to wear and warp – especially if constructed in a material that’s none too hardy, such as plastic or thin aluminium. If a reel gets even slightly weakened or warped and therefore off-balance, this can effect the tension of the tape as it plays, introducing tiny amounts of wow and flutter – especially at higher speeds of 15ips and above.

Check: does your tape spool to the same flat perfection as a factory-fresh blank tape? If you have a well-built reel in a rigid but light material, which won’t wear or bend, then it should do just that. Which, to my mind, should also help to preserve the performance and life of your deck – if you’re constantly playing marginally off-balance tapes then there’s going to be some slight degree of drag or scraping that will ‘pull’ on your deck, requiring the motors to work marginally harder.

If you’re buying new, 15ips master tapes copies, these will often come with good quality ‘hardware’ including well-made reels. But if you have some precious vintage recordings that came with old plastic reels that have seen better days, then you might also want to also consider replacing those with something a bit more sturdy.

Here are some of the places to find brand new, high quality reels.

ATR Magnetics (USA)

Available either direct from ATR or from a dealer (as already noted above, ATR’s online shop will currently only process orders from the USA, so for international orders you’ll need to check out their worldwide dealer listings).

DarkLab Magnetics (Germany)

You can buy direct from their website which is in German but can be viewed in English with Google Translate, or via selected dealers such as sepeaaudio.com.

Feinwerktechnik (Germany)

Only available to buy direct via their eBay shop at www.ebay.de/str/tonbandspule

Recording the Masters (France)

Available either direct from RtM (their online shop is available to customers worldwide) or from a dealer – see their list of dealers internationally.

RX Reels (USA)

Hand-made, high-performance reels made from upcycled aviation-grade carbon fibre; available in 7 and 10.5-inch sizes and a variety of finishes.

Righteous Reels (USA)

Hand-crafted aluminium and carbon fibre tape reels in 5, 7 and 10.5-inch sizes.

RoXdon Audio (UK)

London-based RoXdon Audio manufactures a range of (mostly aluminium) reels and NAB adapters, as well as a wider range of pro quality accessories.

All other tape accessories

What other kinds of ‘stuff’ might you need? Below are the main ones that come to mind, some of which are pretty much essential (eg. decent tape storage), some optional, and others mostly reserved for those of us getting deep into tape geekery (guilty as charged!). Scroll down further for listings of where you can source the various kit.

Tape storage: cases, boxes and labels: tape storage is a key consideration in keeping your collection in good shape, especially if you’re buying old vintage tapes that may not come well packaged. (I also have a thermometer and humidity gauge, to be sure that the room where I store my tapes doesn’t get a tape-unfriendly atmosphere).

Splicit Tape Care Kit

Tape care & editing kit: cleaning products, end tape, leader tape, splicing tape, splicing blocks, tape markers, razors, etc. For more on tape care, check out Taking care of your tapes.

Reel kit: reel hubs and flange screws, if you’re looking to repair or upgrade your reels.

Hub adaptors: NAB hub adaptors are easily fitted to your deck, allowing you to use NAB reels on your CINE/Trident-type deck. You’ll find plenty of options in the listings below. Note: If you have a plain spindle deck without Trident wings (eg. some Denon and Stellavox machines, among others), you’ll need a universal adapter like this one from Sepea Audio https://sepeaaudio.com/accessories/stellavox-parts/sepea-universal-nab-adapter-quarter-inch-half-inch-black-for-ordinary-shaft-not-trident

HAN-D-MAG Tape Head Demagnetizer

Calibration tapes: also known as test tapes or reference tapes. MRL are the ‘go to’ here – details in the listings below. (See also this earlier blog on Tape operating level aka ‘reference fluxivity’).

Deck care, repair and restoration: everything from simple cotton swabs and solvents for cleaning, to demagnetising gadgets (not only worthwhile but necessary in my view) and tweaking tools, right up to the full gamut of replacement parts and professional measuring devices and tools.

Accessory manufacturers & dealers

Here’s an A-Z of some of the main tape accessory manufacturers and dealers we’ve come across so far. Feel free to drop us a line if you know of any to add here. Most of the manufacturers sell via multiple dealers worldwide as well as via their own online shops. Also, a number of dealers stock some of their own-manufactured products (or third-party manufactured on their behalf) as well as various other brands.

Analog Tapes (USA)

Dealers of pretty much the full gamut of R2R accessories – new blank tapes (single reels or cartons), new-old tapes (eg. 3M, AGFA, Ampex), MRL calibration tapes, empty reels and parts, boxes and bags, tape care kit, markers, a demagnetiser, etc – and also a similarly extensive range of accessories for other AV media too (cassette, digital tape). There’s also an in-house brand, called Burlington Recording, which looks to be third party manufactured kit (eg. Capture blank tapes). www.analogtapes.com/capture-brand-recording-tape

ATR Magnetics (USA)

As well as being one of the main manufacturers of reel-to-reel tape, ATR also sells a range of accessories including tape boxes and labels, tape reels (and hubs and flange screws), NAB hub adapters, tape care kit, reference tape, a demagnetiser, etc.

DarkLab Magnetics (Germany)

You can buy direct from their website but it’s in German language only. They manufacture my preferred NAB hub adapters, as well as reels (‘Metallspulen’), a demagnetiser and tape care kit. If you’re not a German speaker you may prefer to buy from a dealer such as sepeaaudio.com

Han-D-Mag, by Annis (USA)

Probably the leading demagnetiser for R2R purposes (I wouldn’t be without mine). You can buy direct, or from many of the other dealers listed here.

MRL / Magnetic Reference Laboratory (USA)

The place to go for calibration / test tapes, along with a raft of useful information on which tape to buy (according to your deck and your level of skill in making adjustments), how to use the tapes, and various other technical papers. If you’re in the UK / Europe you can also buy from UK sales agent Canford at www.canford.co.uk/MRL-TEST-TAPES

Nagravox (Australia)

Vintage audio electronics, including Revox and Studer decks, various deck maintenance and restoration kits, calibration kits, an extensive range of pinch rollers, blank tapes, tape reels, NAB adapters, tape care kit and other accessories. They also make their own in-house designed and patented NAB Pancake Spooler / Winder.

National Audio Company (USA)

The USA’s largest manufacturer of professional quality audio cassette tapes, NAC also retails a selection of R2R accessories, mostly ATR products: blank tapes, reels and tape care kit.

Preservation Equipment (UK)

A British company specialising in products and supplies for the conservation and preservation of all kinds of objects and materials. They sell (among many other things) some very nice acid-free R2R tape boxes (many boxes supplied as standard with tapes were made from acidic chipboard and covered with unstable adhesives). They also sell thermo-hygrometers (for reading the temperature and relative humidity of your tape storage room / area).

Recording the Masters (France)

In addition to their tapes, RtM also make a small selection of accessories including a tape reel, NAB adapters and some tape care kit.

Reverb (USA)

Owned by Etsy, this is possibly the largest dedicated global online marketplace for all things audio. It started out (in 2013) with a focus on buying and selling new, used, and vintage musical instruments and has grown to include all things audio and recording-related, with a wide range of tape accessories, all available to order online with international shipping. If you’re in the market for a deck, they’re also a good place to search for vintage studio recorders.

RoXdon Audio (UK)

London-based RoXdon Audio manufactures studio audio equipment, professional microphones and accessories and R2R tape recording products including reels, NAB adapters, tape care kit, cleaning fluids and VU meters.

Runway Pro Audio (UK)

A distributor or pro audio products, their range includes a good selection of tape recordings products (Capture tape, RoXdon reels, tape care kit and a tape head demagnetiser.

Sepea Audio (Slovakia)

Retailer of a wide range of R2R tape decks, spare parts and accessories (as well as an even wider range of kit for all other audio formats, plus music recordings). They also manufacture their own kit – reels, boxes, NAB hubs, etc.

Splicit Reel Audio Products (USA)

An extensive range of R2R accessories, including both in-house products and also other good brands for which Splicit is a dealer. Products include reels hubs and screws, packaging and storage, tape care kits and deck cleaning kit.

Thomann (Germany & UK)

German Thomann is great dealer of all kinds of pro and home musical kit. In terms of R2R accessories they stock key brands such as ATR, RtM and Splicit, and sell a wide range of open reel tapes, reels, boxes, NAB adapters and tape care kit. They also now (since Brexit) have a UK supply hub.