Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Question regarding the bias voltage applied to a tape recording head

  1. Oct 27, 2008 #1
    So in a tape recorder, the quantity of magnetic moment imparted to a unit area of magnetic tape is not a linear function of the applied magnetic flux; the transfer function looks kind of like a cumulative distribution function, if that makes sense. So if one just ran an audio signal directly through a magnetic tape head you'd get distortion on playback because of the non-linearity of the transfer function. The way to get rid of this distortion is to apply a bias current to the tape head so the audio signal stays in the linear region of the transfer function. However, on the schematics of various tape recorders I've seen the bias current isn't DC, but is usually an ultrasonic sine wave. Does anyone have any idea why this is so? I can't say I've ever seen a good explanation.

    Edit: I guess if one thinks of the tape head as a one half of a tiny transformer - maybe it has something to do with avoiding core saturation if one thinks of the tape itself as the secondary?
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2008 #2
    There are a couple of reasons for using ultra-sonic biasing. If a DC bias is used, the tape head would eventually become permanently biased in one direction, affecting both linearity and fidelity. Also, there can be no guarantee that the recording and playback bias is exactly the same, especially when playing back on a different machine. Additionally, the AC bias allows you to record on both the positive and negative linear regions, above and below the “crow-bar” non-linearity in the center. This question brings back memories, as everything now is CDs!
  4. Oct 27, 2008 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Hey schroder. Thanks for your informative post.
  5. Oct 27, 2008 #4
    Thank you!
  6. Oct 28, 2008 #5
    I would have thought that DC bias might introduce noise.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook