How to Buy Reel to Reel Tape Recorders on eBay

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How to Buy Reel to Reel Tape Recorders on eBay

Since their invention in the early twentieth century, reel to reel tape recorders have taken on a prominent role in various areas of society, including news and radio production, academia, and music making. Even with the advent of digital technology, these analogue recorders are as relevant today in many circles and industries as they have ever been. As a result, many individuals may be interested in purchasing reel to reel tape recorders.

Given the technical nature of the product, however, and the fact that many consumers may not be familiar with the ins and outs of reel to reel tape, individuals in the market for these recorders could benefit from gaining a more thorough understanding of how this recording technology works. Consumers looking for reel to reel tape recorders can also benefit from knowing how to leverage the catalogue of the online marketplace eBay in their search for the ideal reel to reel solution.

Buying a Reel to Reel Tape Recorder on eBay

eBay is designed to facilitate a quick and easy purchasing process. While there are many approaches you can take to initiate this process on the site, perhaps one of the most direct ones is to run a listing search using eBay’s search interface. You can find a search bar on any page of the site, and you can enter a keyword term to begin pulling up relevant listings. Of course, before searching for reel to reel tape recorders on eBay, it may help to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of how reel to reel recorders work and some of the technical features involved in reel to reel recording.

A Brief History and Overview of Reel to Reel Recording

When tape recorders were first created, all recorders used a reel to reel method. Nonetheless, the name 'reel to reel recorder' did not arise until much later when users and manufacturers needed to distinguish these units from recorders that used enclosed cassette media instead of open reel tape.

Originally, wire was used as the media for recording, but this quickly proved to be a difficult tool that required complicated operation, recording, and editing. As soon as cellulose acetate tape was invented, it quickly took wire’s place as the recording media for these units.

Reel to Reel Recorders and Their Effect on Music

Reel to reel recorders quickly caught on in broadcast settings and as useful tools for recording interviews, speeches, lectures, and more. Perhaps no industry, however, was more affected by the development of the reel to reel recorder than the music industry.

For the first time in musical history, music could be recorded for longer than thirty minutes at a time, which had been a restriction of phonograph recorders. More importantly, musicians could edit and manipulate a recording after it had been recorded. The tape media of a reel to reel tape recorder allowed users to cut and splice, which enabled the reordering of sections and the correction of mistakes. Editing on reel to reel took on a new relevance in the 1980s when it became a popular technique in early rap and other popular musical genres.

Reel to Reel Tape Recorders Today

Reel to reel tape recorders are still used today in some professional settings, despite the advent of digital media. By and large, the most sizable market for reel to reel tape recorders are individual users who wish to purchase and use a deck for musical recordings and projects. The analogue sound of a reel to reel recording is still enjoyed by many audiophiles. Reel to reel pre-recorded tapes are also still collected and played on these decks as a way of enjoying classic recordings.

Reel to Reel Tape Recorders and Accessories Available on eBay

As an aggregator site, eBay brings together various sellers to create a diverse catalogue of options when it comes to both reel to reel recorders and the accessories that are needed to operate them. Whether an individual needs an easy-to-operate unit or a more complex one, eBay offers access to an array of applicable options.

Pro Audio and Multi-Track Reel to Reel Tape Recorders

Pro audio reel to reel tape recorders that feature multi-track recording are available on eBay for purchase. These units allow users to record individual instruments and voices on separate channels, which enable the mixing and balancing of separate tracks. Multi-track reel to reel tape recorders come in eight-track, sixteen-track, twenty-four-track, and even thirty-two- track varieties, with eight-track being the most common. Pro audio multi-track recorders are typically standing units that are kept in place in a studio and are not portable.

Portable Reel to Reel Tape Recorders

Many home reel to reel tape recorders are designed for portability so that users can tote a reel to reel recorder to various locales for on-the-spot recording. These reel to reel machines tend to have a simpler set up and can have limited track capabilities, often recording in single track stereo or even mono. Many of these units feature a fold-over cover design that allows a recorder to close for safe and easy storage.

Tape Media, Parts, and Manuals for Reel to Reel Tape Recorders

Consumers can find a wide range of the tape media needed for reel to reel recording. Tape media for reel to reel decks is typically sold with the width of the tape itself as the most important reference point for a customer. When purchasing tape media on eBay, consumers should confirm that they have an appropriate tape size for their machines. Some reel to reel decks can deal with varying tape sizes, while others are more limited in their ability to cope with different tape widths.

eBay also offers consumers a good resource for replacement parts, including belts, dials, cases, and other essential accessories. Instruction manuals are also sold on the site by various vendors, and this allows consumers to access critical operational information about a particular deck.

Different Tape Speeds in Reel to Reel Tape Recorders

When shopping for a reel to reel tape recorder, individuals should make sure that they understand how tape speeds work and that they choose a deck that is capable of leveraging the right speeds for their needs. The following chart lists the various speeds associated with reel to reel recorders and the best applications for those speeds.

Tape Speed

Ideal Application

2.38 cm/s

Ideal for very long-running recordings, such as logging content for record keeping

4.76 cm/s

Ideal for recording speeches and other long-form content where quality is not a priority

Commonly the lowest setting on a domestic reel to reel machine

9.53 cm/s

Ideal for balancing length and quality

Commonly found on single-speed machines

19.05 cm/s

Ideal for music recording in amateur settings

Fastest speed typically found in domestic units

38.1 cm/s

Ideal for professional recording

Typically found in professional-grade tape recorders

76.2 cm/s

Ideal for recording when a heightened treble response is necessary

Typically found in professional-grade tape recorders

Reel to reel tape recorders vary in the number and types of speed settings that they offer. Consumers should carefully consider which speeds they need using the chart above as a reference before selecting a recorder. Those in the market for a reel to reel tape recorder should also consult with the vendor selling a recorder on eBay to confirm speeds and appropriate applications for a recorder.

The Purchasing Process on eBay

Once you have informed yourself as to the various features and attributes of reel to reel tape recorders and run a search for the type of reel to reel tape recorder you need, you can begin looking at listings in detail on eBay. If a listing in the search results catches your eye, click on its title and look at the information listed on the detail page. Look for important notes on the status of the machine, its various features, and information on important issues, such as payment methods and shipping costs. All of this information helps confirm whether a reel to reel tape recorder is right for you.

Evaluating Sellers on eBay

When shopping on eBay, it can be useful to take some time during the purchasing process to get to know the sellers from whom you are interested in buying a reel to reel tape recorder. Doing this helps ensure that you get the exact recorder you want. Visit a seller’s page and review the feedback submitted by other customers and look through the vendor’s past auctions. This can give you an important perspective on the experience and knowledge of a seller and the range of products he or she offers.


Reel to reel tape recording has lost little of the lustre and relevance it had for decades in the mid-twentieth century. These units are collected for both their historical provenance and the value they bring to the recording process. Customers interested in finding and purchasing a reel to reel unit can begin the process by getting to know something about these analogue recorders, including their importance in the history of music and how they work.

By then leveraging the diverse catalogue of listings on eBay, consumers can search through a range of reel to reel recorders, as well as the tape media and additional accessories they may need to operate it. After taking a moment to also consider the merits of a particular seller and determine that he or she has the right reel to reel tape recorder for a particular application, any individual can confidently purchase an ideal unit on eBay that can bring musical and historical value to a home or professional setting.

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