How Does Tape Recorder Work?
The tape for a tape recorder is coated with tiny bits of iron. When you speak into a tape recorder microphone, the sound pattern of your voice is changed into electrical signals that go to the recording head. As the tape rolls past the recording head, an electromagnet makes a magnetic pattern on the tape that represents the pattern of your voice.
When the tape is played back, the recording head changes the magnetic pattern on the tape into electrical signals. A loudspeaker changes these signals back into sound waves just like those made by your voice.
Electric current flowing in the coils of the tape head creates a fluctuating magnetic field. This causes the magnetic material on the tape, which is moving past and in contact with the head, to align in a manner proportional to the original signal.
The signal can be reproduced by running the tape back across the tape head, where the reverse process occurs – the magnetic imprint on the tape induces a small current in the read head which approximates the original signal and is then amplified for playback.
Many tape recorders are capable of recording and playing back at once by means of separate record and playback heads in line or combined in one unit.
Modern professional recorders usually use a three-motor scheme. One motor with a constant rotational speed drives the capstan. This, usually combined with a rubber pinch roller, ensures that the tape speed does not fluctuate. The other two motors, which are called Torque Motors, apply equal and opposite torques to the supply and take up reels during recording and play back functions and maintain the tape’s tension.
During fast winding operations the pinch roller is disengaged and the take up reel motor is supplied with a higher voltage than the supply motor.
The cheapest models use a single motor for all required functions; the motor drives the capstan directly and the supply and take-up reels are loosely coupled to the capstan motor with slipping belts or clutches. There are also variants with two motors, in which one motor is used for rewinding only.