Elephone wrote:I've been asked to transfer some reels to digital files, but the customer still owns the original machine they were recorded on and it's in very good condition.... Would playing from this machine (a Philips EL3542) potentially provide more faithful results than a solid state machine in similar condition?
As others have said, assuming it is a working machine, the 'valve sound' is unlikely to be an issue, and any colouration is likely to be the least of your problems anyway!
Firstly, whether the machine is actually in good technical and mechanical condition may be a rather different thing from it looking nice... But if it really is in good mechanical and technical nick then using it to replay the tapes would be the most convenient option, obviously -- just because it will have the right head format and alignment, the right speed options, and the right replay EQ settings.
However, the technical performance certainly won't be as good as a more modern transport, especially in the areas of noise, probably in bandwidth, and in tape speed stability too. So there is an argument for playing the tapes on a machine with a modern, gentle tape handling transport, good modern heads, quiet electronics and so on...
The only issues with that are (a) you don't appear to have a suitable alternative machine to hand... and (b) finding a suitable alternative machine -- specifically a quarter-track machine with the right speed option(s). It may also be necessary to adjust the head alignment to match that of the recorder for azimuth and also for head height to minimise the crosstalk from the adjacent recorded tracks, and possibly a need to alter the replay machine's EQ (I presume the original would have used CCIR EQ...).
Depending on the age of the tapes to be transferred, you may also have issues with 'sticky-shed' to deal with, too.
All in all, not a job to dive into casually...