GCN Insider | Tape is dead ... at least for audio

Trends & technologies that affect the way government does IT

Analog is out and digital is in when it comes to permanently preserving audio recordings, according to a report commissioned by the Library of Congress. 'Increasingly, leading audio engineers and audio preservationists believe that the future of audio preservation is in the digital arena,' stated the authors of 'Capturing Analog Sound for Digital Preservation.'

The Library commissioned the Council on Library and Information Resources to summarize the conventional wisdom of a panel of audio engineers and preservationists. The library is grappling with how to save older audio recordings, most now residing on magnetic tapes or vinyl records. Other agencies keeping internal audio recordings may find the report useful as well.

'It has become increasingly clear that analog magnetic tape no longer provides the safe haven for preservation that it once may have,' the report stated. Only one major company, Quantegy Recording Solutions LLC of Peachtree City, Ga., still produces analog magnetic recording tape, and only a few others still produce reel-to-reel tape players.

While the report argued for digital preservation, it left unresolved many issues about how to use digital, such as what sampling rate should be used. Audio CDs use 44.1 KHz, or 44,100 samples per second, with each sample 16 bits in size.

While participants agreed this was too low, some argued for 96 KHz at 24 bits (the European standard), while others preferred the more compact 88.2 KHz at 24 bits.
Last year, the Library won the hearts of jazzbos worldwide when it unearthed a 1957 Voice of America broadcast that featured jazz giants Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane playing Carnegie Hall, which was later released commercially.

About the Authors

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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