What about using tape as part of a signal processor instead, by feeding a live signal to the tape loop while it’s playing?
Placing a recording head and one (or more) playback head displaced along the tape path implies a delay due to tape travelling from one head to the other. The delay duration changes when changing tape speed.
That’s how a tape echo device works, here is an example showing a Roland RE-201.
The tape echo effect isn’t limited to dedicated devices. It can be obtained on most reel to reel decks too (depending on the head pack). While tape echo devices always use loops, a reel to reel can be used as a delay by loading a loop or a normal tape reel (it makes no difference). Here is a demonstration of usage of a deck as an effect.
We are apparently still off-track regarding the original post topic (audio editing) however we’re here for a good reason: head displacement, while being an advantage for the purpose of obtaining delay effects, is a problem when coupling a tape deck with DAW for advanced multitrack editing. In this case the delay is called latency, and is undesired.
Next post will address this problem and solutions.