Print-through is the magnetic phenomena that occurs when a tape signal is imprinted on to the adjacent layer of tape during storage. During playback it is heard as either pre or post-echo, and it is more noticeable at high recorded signal levels. When tapes are stored “heads out” (oxide in), a faint echo will be heard before the main signal during playback. When tapes are stored “tails out” (oxide out), a post-echo will be heard after the main signal during playback. The post-echo is less obvious than the pre-echo, which is one of the reasons tapes should be stored tails out.

Pre-echo is also a problem in disc recordings where the groove might modulate so much as to affect its neighboring instance.

Can it be fixed?

There are two common fixes for print-through:

  • Rewind the tape, at least three times, prior to playback.1
  • If you have a tape machine that can apply low level bias, engaging it can help mitigate print-through, “though it may also have an effect [on] the signal, especially if over-applied, and should only be used as a last resort and then every carefully.”2


Listen to a tape with print-through on SoundCloud

See also

  • Glenn D. White and Gary J. Louie, The audio dictionary (3rd ed.), (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005), 310.
  • Print-through at’s Pro Audio Reference
  • Minimising Print-through (PDF) by Michael Gerzon


1. Kevin Bradley (ed), “Removal of Storage Related Signal Artefacts” in Guidelines on the production and preservation of digital audio objects, IASA TC-04 (2nd ed., 2009).
2. Bradley, “Removal of Storage Related Signal Artefacts.”

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